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Peaceful Times

Liza Dezfouli

MADMAN: Neele Leana Vollmar’s charming family dramedy explores the lives of a German family in 1963 as they struggle with the freedoms of the West.
Peaceful Times
Directed by Neele Leana Vollmar, Peaceful Times is a sweet story about sisterhood, family dynamics, and the effect of displacement. Without becoming syrupy, this tale of how two girls manage their mother’s neurosis and the growing rift between their parents is completely charming, creating a lovely reminder of how important are the simple ties can sustaining individuals.

The family in question are refugees from East Germany. Sisters Ute (Nina Monka) and Wasa (Leonie Brill) are torn between Dieter (Oliver Stokowski) their extraverted good-natured dad, and their jealous and fearful mother, Irene (Katharina M. Schubert), who is cut adrift from her family and the predictability of life under the Communist regime.

Irene, who lives her life as though under a state of constant siege, hasn’t acclimatised to life in the West, whereas her husband is happy in his new life. Their daughters are carrying the burden of their mother’s unhappiness. Traumatised by her experiences in the Second World War, Irene expects the world to erupt into chaos at any minute. The film manages not to judge her, despite her lack of awareness of the effects her behaviour has on her daughters.

Vollmar directs the film beautifully, with a light and sure touch. Monka and Brill are terrific as and convincing as the two girls as they negotiate their way through school life feeling like outsiders, while simultaneously attempting to take control of the situation at home.

The great strength of Peaceful Times is the way it tells a delightful, simple and heart-warming story of a loving family without overdoing the sweetness or patronising any of its characters. Set in 1963, the small moments of life in simpler times are documented with affection and respect. The film is also a reminder of the difficulties experienced by everyday people who’ve been through a war and are unable to put it behind them; the impact of which we here in sheltered Australia can only begin to imagine.

The only extra featured on the DVD is the film's theatrical trailer.

Peaceful Times (Friedliche Zeiten)
Directed by Neele Leana Vollmar
Stars Nina Monka, Leonie Brill, Oliver Stokowski & Katharina M. Schubert
Germany, 2008, 98 mins
Rated PG
Available to rent or buy through Madman Entertainment

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Liza Dezfouli has been reviewing film, live performance, books and occasionally music for over a decade. She writes a blog under her own name and another, somewhat less-measured one called WhenMrWrongfeelsSoRight. She creates work for the stage herself every now and then and can occasionally be seen in shows or in short films. For more: www.lizadezfouli.com.