Aimée & Jaguar

Directed by Max Färberböck
Starring: Maria Schrader, Juliane Köhler, Johanna Wokalek, Heike Makatsch, Elisabeth Degen, Detlev Buck.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated (several scenes of nudity and sexuality, plus subtitled German swearing)

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
August 14, 2000

If there's anything we learn from the movies, it's that fascists hate people who are different. The Nazis tried to kill off all the Jews and homosexuals they could, among other groups. However, it is a novel concept to make a love story about a Jewish lesbian in wartime Berlin.

Based on Erica Fischer's novel, Aimée & Jaguar stars Maria Schrader as Felice Schragenheim, a woman who disguises both her religion and sexuality by calling herself "Frau Schrader". She is, of course, more open with her lover, Ilse (Johanna Wokalek), and her other friends. While at the theatre, they see Lilly Wust (Juliane Köhler), for whom Ilse works as a nanny to her four children. Felice is immediately attracted to her, despite being an apparently straight housewife.

She writes a love letter to Lilly, signing it "Jaguar". Lilly assumes that it's from one of the lovers she has taken while her husband, Günther (Detlev Buck), is off fighting in the war. Until now, Lilly has been quite pro-Nazi, even sharing her anti-Semitic views with Ilse. But her life is about to change, as she starts hanging out with Felice, Ilse, and their other gay friends, eventually leading to a romance with Felice.

"Aimée", as you have probably figured out, is the pet name that Felice gives Lilly to help her overcome her previous sexual identity. Ilse, who starts as the narrator, is soon cast aside. The perspective may be lost, but that is just one chance the film takes. The urgency of being discovered by the Gestapo is also downplayed, even though it would seem to be the most important aspect of the story. Instead, director Max Färberböck (making his first theatrical feature) chooses to intensely focus on the relationship. The performances by Schrader and Köhler are quite powerful, and often save the film from its less-successful risks.

In the second half of the film, there are many scenes that seem unnecessary. The relationship isn't further explored during scenes that involve various parties and liasons, other than a few key moments. The big payoff that the audience is waiting for is the revelation to Lilly of Felice's religion. It is also implied in the beginning (a present-day sequence where Lilly -- played by Inge Keller -- moves into a retirement home in which Ilse -- played by Kyra Mladeck -- already lives) that Felice didn't make it through the war. I wasn't expecting a big surprise ending, but the film needed something more profound than a foregone conclusion.

Aimée & Jaguar is still a good film, and a much better way to spend your time and money than seeing another mediocre studio film. If you'd rather see a film that takes no risks, feel free to watch Autumn in New York.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Aimée & Jaguar (1999)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Aimée & Jaguar, a novel by Erica Fischer (translated by Edna McCown) -- Paperback


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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan