'Anita B.': Film Review
A young Auschwitz survivor experiences emotional turmoil when she goes to live with her Czech relatives in Roberto Faenza's drama set in the aftermath of the Holocaust
A lingering air of gloom hangs over Roberto Faenza's drama based on Edith Bruck's autobiographical novel set in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust. But despite dealing with such provocative themes as survivor's guilt and the need to expiate the horrors of the past, Anita B., like so many Holocaust-themed films, suffers from an excess of melodrama and sentimentality. It comes as little surprise that one of its producers, Elda Ferri, was also responsible for the egregious Life is Beautiful.
The story begins with the title character (Eline Powell) arriving in a small town near Prague after being imprisoned at Auschwitz, where her parents were murdered. The beautiful, perky young woman goes to live with her Aunt Monika (Andrea Osvart), her father's sister; her husband Aron (Antonio Cupo); the couple's infant son Roby; and Aron's younger brother Eli (Robert Sheehan), who immediately sets his sights on Anita.
Despite their familial ties, Monika is not particularly welcoming to her new arrival, essentially tasking her with the job of being Roby's nanny and angrily rebuffing Anita whenever she tries to talk about the recent events of the past. Forced to express her thoughts to the uncomprehending Roby, Anita further attracts Monika's ire when the toddler parrots her words.
Further drama is introduced to the proceedings when, during a local gathering, Anita is summarily arrested by a pair of menacing government agents for the crime of not having any "papers." But this plot element is quickly dispensed with, as her documents arrive within a few days and she's released from jail none the worse for wear.
Meanwhile, Eli begins to make his move on Anita, wooing her with such activities as a nighttime visit to a field in which a beautiful horse runs free and taking her to see Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. Anita, who apparently has never seen a movie before, asks if there really was a Jewish barber mistaken for Hitler.
Their relationship soon turns physical, but when Anita informs him that she's pregnant he angrily orders to have an abortion against her wishes. Fortunately for her, the kindly doctor to which he takes her fakes the procedure, with Anita later escaping Eli's clutches by jumping from the balcony of the hotel room in which he's locked her. Eventually, she manages to land a spot on a voyage bound for Palestine.
With no less than five credited screenwriters including the director and the author of the original novel, it's no wonder that Anita B. is narratively muddled, with the stereotypical characters and mawkish situations having the feel of soap opera rather than compelling drama. The performances are equally ineffective, with Powell failing to convey any traces of the suffering her character has obviously endured.
Production: Jean Vigo Italia, Cinemaundici, Four of a Kind Productions, Herrick Entertainment
Cast: Elina Powell, Robert Sheehan, Andrea Osvart, Antonio Cupo, Moni Ovadia
Director: Roberto Faenza
Screenwriters: Roberto Faenza, Edith Bruck, Nelo Risi, Iole Masucci, Hugh Fleetwood
Producers: Elda Ferri, Luigi Mussini
Executive producers: Norton Herrick, Andrea Manganelli, Ron Stein
Director of photography: Arnaldo Catinari
Production designer: Cosimo Gomez
Editor: Massimo Fiochi
Costume designer: Anna Lombardi
Composer: Paolo Buonvino
Casting: Stevens Millefiorini Danny, Jessica Ronane
Not rated, 88 min.