Painting a curiously cozy portrait of refugee life, Caroline Link’s “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” views displacement and the approaching Holocaust primarily by way of the experiences of a kid, Anna Kemper (a fascinating Riva Krymalowski). The result’s a film that’s nearly as cuddly because the toy in its title.
We meet 9-year-old Anna in Berlin in 1933, simply earlier than the Nazis come to energy. Forced to flee to guard her father, Arthur (Oliver Masucci), a famous theater critic and outstanding denouncer of Hitler, the household — together with Anna’s older brother, Max (Marinus Hohmann), and their mom, Dorothea (Carla Juri) — relocates to the Swiss countryside. While the kids grapple with a brand new language and unfamiliar customs, Arthur struggles to search out work in a rustic he learns is experiencing an inflow of Jewish intellectuals and is petrified of compromising its neutrality.
A transfer to a meager Paris condo solely accelerates their diminishing circumstances. Yet, contemplating the horrors unfolding in Germany, the household’s issues really feel staggeringly trivial. News that the Nazis have looted their residence and burned their books, and that Arthur now has a value on his head, appears to reach from one other planet because the movie focuses on Anna’s growing inventive expertise. It’s troublesome to sympathize with a household whose most urgent issues are a snippy French landlady (Anne Bennent) and the flexibility to afford personal education for just one baby. Indeed, Dorothea’s disdain for public faculties (“They don’t even teach Latin there”) expresses a privilege that feels shockingly misplaced.
This soft-pedal, sentimental method is clearly owed to Judith Kerr’s 1971 children’s novel, which Link and Anna Brüggemann have adapted without cracking much of a window onto the adult world. The family experiences some mild anti-Semitism, but the film carries no genuine sense of looming threat or the perils of their predicament. Much like Link’s 2003 feature, “Nowhere in Africa” — in which a wealthy Jewish family relocates to Kenya — the pace is lingering, the tone warm, the palette glossy and the mood determinedly optimistic. And as Anna moves from scribbling pictures of disasters to casting gloomy thoughts aside, the film strains to inject even a modicum of drama.
“Good will always win,” Anna’s beloved godfather, Uncle Julius (a perfect Justus von Dohnányi), promises her before she leaves Berlin. That’s as accurate a summary of the movie’s message as any.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Not rated. In German, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 59 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.