Christian Harting, Jessica Stautz, Dorothee Frauenlob
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Frank Christian Wagner
"A Father's Job" a Thoughtful, Engaging Short
You may find yourself marveling that German filmmaker Frank Christian Wagner's self-funded short film is, in fact, a short film given the complexity of its story and Wagner's commitment to rich authenticity that radiates throughout the 20-minute A Father's Job. This is a film set in Hitler's Germany, the narrative debut of Wagner in telling the story of the happily married Johann (Christian Harting) and Anna (Dorothee Frauenlob) along with their daughter Helga.
While Anna is Jewish and her husband German, the two have a seemingly idyllic marriage until Hitler's takeover in 1933 at which time Johann is drafted and heads off to the war. Because of her mixed marriage, Anna is considered a privileged Jew with protection from deportation. However, the difficult circumstances along with increasing harassment and humiliation eventually lead toward a drastic choice. Once he returns from the war, Johann learns what has unfolded and truths are revealed.
It is clear that A Father's Job benefits not only from Wagner's obvious talent but also his cinematic relationships. Jens Schaffner's lensing for the film is lush and immersive and intimate almost to the point of jarring. It's as if Schaffner's lens reads the truth long before it is actually revealed by our actors. Robin Hoffmann's original music is similarly enveloping of us as we surrender to this story and a production design that is period appropriate and draws us in throughout the multi-layered story written by Wagner.
Kudos must be given to the small but mighty ensemble cast. Most notably, Harting masterfully captures the wide ranging emotions of Johann and yet manages to do so without ever giving away the film's story. It's a marvelous performance that will likely have you running over to IMDB to check out his entire filmography.
Dorothee Frauenlob and Jessica Stautz are similarly memorable.
A Father's Job has picked up a slew of awards along its festival journey as it tells a unique story on a subject matter where we can falsely feel like we've learned all there is to know. Indeed, we haven't. There are many stories left untold. While A Father's job is a fictional tale, it nonetheless represents those untold stories and, in particular, represents the experiences of so many women who'd been left behind in a German society that had drastically changed around them.
A Father's Job is a strong narrative debut for Wagner and one can only hope he continues down this cinematic road.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic