It’s plain to see that director Oskar Roehler finds his late mother’s life story fascinating – his latest film “Quellen des Lebens” [Eng. Title: Sources of Life] is the third time I’d seen him draw characters inspired by his mother. On this occasion it was perhaps unavoidable, for the film is about his own story, covering three generations of his family.
The film starts in 1949 when defeated soldier Erich (Jürgen Vogel) returns home from the Russian front after World War II, only to receive a rather indifferent reception from family members. It isn’t helped by his bedraggled appearance either – having lost all his teeth, he’s also dishevelled, and suffering a nasty bout of diarrhoea. To make matters worse, his communist sister and life long enemy Marie (Sonja Kirchberger) has now become wife Elisabeth’s (Meret Becker) live-in lover. However, his eldest son Klaus (Kostja Ullmann, later by Roehler-regular Moritz Bleibtreu) takes pity and with his help, Erich sorts himself out and claims back his family. A former Nazi party worker, Erich will have to fight hard to gain acceptance by people in the household, including wife Elisabeth.
Klaus grows up to be a talented writer, and will also meet and marry Gisela (Lavinia Wilson), only to learn soon that she’s even more talented than him. They name their child Robert (Leonard Scheicher), but the couple are unprepared for parenthood – each will start having affairs before they separate for good, and most of Robert’s childhood will be spent with either Klaus’ or Gisela’s parents. Young Robert naturally struggles to grow roots anywhere, and spends his time when not alone, in bad company. Until he reconnects with Laura (Lisa Smit) – a childhood friend and neighbour of grandparents Erich and Elisabeth. He discovers true love, and the tenacious lad will come out of a messed-up childhood relatively unscathed.
Like his earlier film Elementarteilken, Roehler provides ample evidence of his dexterity in interpreting events from personal history – the pleasant and the painful, with the right mixture of nostalgia and factual reporting, while lacing it with a touch of humour. Unlike the earlier semi-biographical drama about his mother – Die Unberührbare, he even retains his mother’s original name (Gisela Ellers) here. It is beautifully put together, with fine performances, set design, cinematography, and score. The film is nearly three hours long and justifiably feels like an epic – filled with colourful memories, pithy observations, and melodrama. Highly Recommended Viewing..!
Lavinia Wilson, Eva Bay, Karoline Teska, Lisa Smit, Moritz Bleibtreu, and others
The film features several scenes of nudity, mostly for comedic effect, and some are outrageous even. Worth mentioning are two scenes – of Robert as a little boy, walking in on his dad (Klaus) having sex – first with the mother (Lavinia Wilson), and later with friend Dorothea (Eva Bay) – both these occasions lead to an impromptu biology lesson on female anatomy for young Robert. There is nudity from Karoline Teska in a pool – appearing as Robert’s maternal aunt Erika, and a brief scene from Lisa Smit – playing Robert’s girlfriend Laura. There is brief public nudity when women from Erich’s garden-gnome factory skinny-dip in a stream after work. There is also nudity from Anne Wallis De Vries when Klaus is confronted by Erich for abandoning Robert one afternoon.