For my Baby (1997)
Director: Rudolf van den Berg.
Starring: Alan Cumming (Daniel Orgelbrand), Juliet Aubrey (Lilian Glass), Frank Finlay (Rudi Wittfogel), Elizabeth Spriggs (Olga Jenikova), Serena Gordon (Molly), Hédi Temessy (Martha Orgelbrand), Timothy Bateson (Max Liebman), Clive Russell (Miklos Rumbold), Cyril Shaps (Joshua Orgelbrand), Michael Cronin (Inquisitor).
a young man becomes his dead sister Hannah to bring his grandmother out of her constant grieving; his life is further complicated when his Texas girlfriend finds out that her father was a Nazi
Spoiler Warning: complete summary and some curse words spelled out.
A man named Daniel Orgelbrand hears the voices of people around him: "Thanks to you, she's still alive." "She owes her life to you." Then a little girl cries out: "Daniel, save me!" Daniel calls out for his sister named Hannah.
The manager of the night club comes around and awakens Daniel. He tells him he goes on in five minutes. Daniel goes on stage and begins his comedic routine. A woman at the bar doesn't seem to care for the topic of just say no to procreation. She finally gets so frustrated that she calls the comedian a fascist pig because he said the Nazis had two good ideas: the autobahn and compulsory sterilization. Apparently the woman just recently had an abortion and is still upset about making light of the subject. Daniel guesses this and says don't tell me you just . . . his voice trails off as the woman leaves the night club. (That woman was his girlfriend.)
Daniel finishes his routine and rushes outside to see if he can see the woman. He sees her and now we learn that he knows this woman, this Molly. He tells her that he honestly didn't know. Daniel asks her why didn't she tell him? She says because he would have just made a joke out of it. They have been together on and off for some five years. And now she says it's over. She leaves.
Daniel tells Miklos that he's gotten him in another fine mess. Miklos tells Daniel that he forgot about the need to keep the species alive. Sex is a dirty thing, but somebody has to do it. Daniel says screw the species.
Daniel goes home. His father telephones him, but Daniel refuses to pick it up. The call, however, gets Daniel into thinking about his childhood.
Flashback. Daniel is a young fellow watching his father and three friends play cards and drink. His grandmother Martha walks into the room asking if anyone has seen Hannah? Dad explains to the guys that his wife gets this way when old friends are around. He then tells his wife that Hannah is gone, but they have Daniel now. The wife asks one of the friends, thinking he's Daniel, if he has seen Hannah? The man gets up saying they have to go now. All three friends leave.
Daniel tries to talk with grandmother but she just keeps turning her head away from him. He goes into a bedroom that is still fixed up like Hannah's room. Looking around at all the girl toys, he suddenly gets an idea. He gets up and starts opening a closet that is kept locked. Inside the closet is one of Hannah's dresses.
Back to the present. Dressed as a woman, Daniel walks down a hospital corridor. A doctor says hello to Mr. Orgelbrand. He goes to see his dying grandmother in her room. Daniel tells her that he just doesn't know about Daniel. He has no luck with women. A possible relationship starts out okay, but he always treats them badly later.
Daniel's father complains to his business partner saying what's the use of a son like Daniel? Where are the grandchildren? What was the point of surviving? The partner says the more pressure he puts on Daniel, the less likely Daniel will ever have a satisfactory relationship. He then changes the subject to see if Joshua knows anything about this fellow Rudi Wittfogel. He says the man seems to have no past. He suddenly appeared in the late 60s and started up this chemical company. He says he thinks this Wittfogel person is actually Dieter von Papius. The Americans took him home with them. The studies von Papius was doing in the concentration camps were very useful to the Americans in their space program. These partners are Nazi hunters.
In his car Joshua starts trailing this Wittfogel character. Wittfogel brings flowers to an older lady, who says she has a young woman in mind for a concert. Her voice is rough now, but she recognizes some good things about the voice.
Wittfogel comes out of the home and Joshua starts following him in his car. He suddenly starts having a heart attack behind the wheel and his car goes onto the grass in a city park. A woman notices this and rushes over to check on the car and driver. She sees a man laying on the front seat and rushes over to open the passenger door. Joshua is still alive. The woman tells him that she's going to call an ambulance for him. The old man tries to say something to the woman, but the audience cannot hear the words.
Dressed in mourning clothes as a woman, Daniel walks through a pedestrian tunnel. He sees three large men coming his way. He walks past them as one fellow starts propositioning him. Daniel has to say something sarcastic to the man and he gets slugged for it. They give Daniel a good beating. Miklos goes up to see Daniel and finds him in the stairwell all beat up. Miklos gets him into a warm bath to help clean him up.
Joshua's body is cremated. Daniel tells Miklos that the flames finally got father in the end. The woman who found Joshua starts to sing. A man asks Daniel where did he find such a lovely singer? Daniel works his way over to the woman. She starts leaving but Daniel catches up with her. She says she came because she wanted to say how sorry she is about what happened. Daniel says he appreciates her coming. And if she ever wants to talk, they could get together. She tells Daniel that his father said a name before he died. It was Hannah. This hurts Daniel. He says thank you to the woman and turns to walk away.
Daniel dreams that his father comes to see him at the night club. He sits in the audience and has a drink to watch the act. Suddenly, all the other patrons disappear except for dad. He jokes that he had to buy a ticket to talk to his son. Joshua says Daniel can't bring her back, but he wonders why did it happen? He says goodbye.
Miklos tells Daniel that he met a real talent at the cremation. Her name is Lilian Glass and maybe Daniel should call her.
Daniel meets Lilian in the snow in the park. She says: "My first date in Europe and it's in a crematorium." After the date, Daniel tells his grandmother that Daniel has met a lovely girl. He says that she may get in Daniel's way in these relationships and maybe she should go away for awhile. Or maybe she should disappear completely out of his life for good?
Flashback. Dressed as Hannah, Daniel goes to see his grandmother. She believes that Daniel, dressed as a girl with short hair, is actually Hannah. And Daniel is so happy to be hugged by his grandmother.
Back to the present. Lilian goes with Daniel to his apartment. She asks him if there are any other women in his life? He says no. In fact, he says he's a virgin. Lilian thinks that's a joke and says she just wants to make sure that Daniel is available. They talk for awhile and Daniel excuses himself to go to the bathroom. While he is in there Lilian finds a button on the floor. She goes over and picks it up. She examines it carefully. Then she opens the nearby lockers and sees something upsetting to her. When Daniel come out of the bathroom, Lilian is gone. He sees the door of one of the lockers open and says a curse word.
He runs after Lilian to tell her it's not what she thinks it is. She asks does he mean to say that those dresses in the locker are his? He lies and Lilian sees through it. He admits there is some unfinished business. Lilian says: "So go deal with it." She leaves.
Daniel returns to the lockers and tells his other self to get out of his life for he is done with this masquerade.
Daniels burns the dresses, but he says he could feel her terror, as her clothes got nearer to the fire. He saves one last gown. When he sees his mother in the hospital, he tells her that she won't be seeing Hannah anymore. There's only Daniel left. He gives her a kiss on the forehead and then leaves.
The older woman teaching Lilian singing, Madame Jenikova, sees that she's upset. She tells her singer that there are plenty more fish in the sea from which to choose. Wittfogel sits outside in he hall. The German shepherd dog senses this and scratches at the door.
When Lilian leaves the building, she has to use her umbrella for it's raining. There she sees Daniel waiting out in the rain for her. She hesitates for awhile, but then goes over to him. They kiss. They are all over each other. They have sex in Daniel's apartment.
Lilian says that she was only a little baby when her father died.
Lilian wants to see his father's apartment and so Daniel takes her there. He asks her if she really wants to live here instead of the loft? While at the house, Lilian says that she is pregnant. This catches Daniel off-guard. He says he's only known her for three months. He finally gets around to telling her that this is fantastic news and he's happy about it. They hug.
In a large bath tub together, Lilian asks Daniel if he has any brothers and sisters? Daniel retreats to the far end of the tub, but does say that he had a sister. Lilian asks what happened to her? Daniel says she died at the Russian front. Lilian wants him to be serious, but Daniel now switches the topic.
Behind the scenes, Wittfogel arranges a singing "debut" for Lilian, but when she shows up there are only a few people in the huge theater. She appears with her teacher.
Back at home, Lilian is really upset and gets mad when Daniel tries to make a joke about it. So he changes his strategy and says how great her performance was. They go out for a celebratory dinner. They start to go into a restaurant, but Daniel sees his father's partner Max Liebman, who was at the performance, and tries to go elsewhere. Lilian says they can sit over there with that little old man. So Daniel goes with her and introduces her to Max. And it's now that Lilian learns that the sold-out theater was sold out because Max bought almost all of the tickets. He says that Madame Jenikova sang to sold-out performances on her European tours during the war. Max adds that she could have been a little bit more circumspect in the audiences she chose to sing for. "I am afraid, Miss Glass, you are being rather innocent."
Daniel wants to leave the place, but Lilian wants to know what Max has to tell her. And there is the sponsor of the performance, Mr. Wittfogel of Pharma Proton chemicals. Daniel gets very angry and refers to Madame Jenikova as that "old Nazi bitch" which draws a protest from Lilian. He gets up from the table and says they are leaving.
Daniel is so angry that he upsets Lilian. He says: "These old men upset me, Lilian. I have been hearing this all my life." She asks Daniel if he wants their baby or not? Daniel calms down and says if he's not ready for the baby now, then he never will be. He says that he loves Lilian and the baby.
They go on a merry-go-round ride and Daniel imagines that he took his sister Hannah on such a ride. Hannah says that she is frightened by the ride. Daniel tells her: "But your name is on the list. You have to go." She is pulled away from Daniel and she cries out to him: "Daniel, you said you would never let me go!" As she is hauled off she screams: "Daniel, I don't want to die." He screams out: "Hannah!" He awakens from his nightmare.
He goes back to sleep and back to having a nightmare. Daniel hears voices of people gathered around him, but this time the voices are not saying that Daniel saved his sister Hannah. Instead, they are saying things like: "I hate you!" "You did it!" A Nazi hunter says that Daniel didn't try to save his sister. Daniel says he couldn't have saved her for she died long before he was even born. The Nazi hunter asks Daniel if he would have preferred that his poor sister had never lived? Daniel says that would have been better for Hannah and better for "us" too. He tells the people that Hannah died. but the Nazi Hunter says that Hannah is alive and asks her to step forward. Hannah starts towards Daniel.
Daniel is awake and out by the steps next to his apartment. Lilian has come out to find him. She asks him why won't he ever talk to her about Hannah? He replies: "I didn't even know her." Lilian says everything is going to be alright. She adds that their baby will live for Hannah. They can even call their daughter Hannah.
Lilian watches Daniel perform a comedic routine about another subject that just isn't funny: starving children in Africa. Lilian, like her predecessor, is turned off by the routine and is upset with Daniel. Miklos tells her that she doesn't understand, because she did not live through those terrible days. There's a lot of things that Daniel just doesn't want to talk about. Lilian says she knows and she feels like she is taking a course in modern European history.
Lilian goes to see Wittfogel. She tells him that she would like to know the truth about some things she has heard about him and Madame Jenikova. Wittfogel tells Lilian that he knew her father. They were colleagues. They worked together as scientists on space projects. They were working so much that they hardly noticed that the war was going on. Her father was taken in handcuffs to the United States. Lilian says maybe it was for the best that her father died in a helicopter crash. Wittfogel replies: "No, he didn't die in that crash." The Americans gave her father a new identity. Lilian asks if Wittfogel is her father? Wittfogel shakes his head yes. She asks how could he have abandoned her mother and her? He tries to touch her hand, but she pulls her hands back and says: "No, don't touch me."
Lilian is upset. Her father worked for the Nazis. Daniel makes a joke about it and Lilian says that Daniel is not responding in an appropriate way to what she told him. She adds that she's afraid that Daniel will hate her because of what happened to his sister. Daniel says he wouldn't care if she was Hitler's daughter. But then Lilian says that "we" (her dad and her) have so much to catch up on. Now this really upsets Daniel and he pulls away from her in shock and dismay. Is she really going to keep seeing her father? His father-in-law is a Nazi. He goes on to say that yes, they must think of their child. How will they ever explain to their daughter what their maternal grandfather did to her paternal Aunt Hannah? But, after all, it's the woman's decision to chose what happens to the baby. He leaves the rooms. Lilian is so distraught that she starts screaming.
Max comes to the building where he is to meet someone inside. He brought a German Lugar pistol with him. He sees Von Papius on the other side of a fiery pit. Von Papius says that he has to get out of his daughter's way and he figures 700 degrees of heat will be adequate. He asked Max here to be a witness. Max says Von Papius doesn't have to do this, but the Nazi jumps into the fire.
Daniel speaks with Miklos about Lilian's father not having died in the helicopter crash. He laughs about it and this makes Miklos furious at him. He says that Lilian is now in the hospital ready to have an abortion. Daniel rushes to the hospital and asks Lilian why she would ever even consider aborting their baby? Because Daniel said her father would be too much of a burden on the baby. Daniel says: "Hey, when the Lord made burdens, he also made shoulders." He tells her that all this stuff about her father doesn't matter. He loves her and he loves their baby. And he wants her to come home with him. Lilian gets out of the bed ready to go home with Daniel.
Miklos and Daniel are painting the baby's room pink. Lilian says the story about her father being missing for four months has hit the newspapers.
Daniel visits his grandmother in the hospital. He talks about having another Hannah in the family. He sees two gloves on a side table. He picks them up and puts on one of the gloves. They fit him. He runs for a taxi in a mighty hurry. He goes to see Max. Daniel says that something really strange is happening here. But before he can tell Max about it, he gets a call from Lilian saying that her contractions have started. He rushes home.
Max talks with his old friend, the deceased Joshua. Joshua tells Max that he has to help Daniel, because the young fellow is in real trouble. And the baby is in danger. Max says he will help him, but Joshua must explain the situation to him. He motions to the picture of Hannah on Max's desk.
Daniel dresses up as Hannah. He tells a frightened Lilian that his name is Hannah. Hannah says: "That child is stealing my life. I don't want to die." Lilian's water breaks and she starts having contractions. She tells Daniel to call a taxi. Daniel as Hannah leaves the room. Max arrives. Daniel goes to see his grandmother as Hannah. He paints his fingernails. Grandmother finally tells Daniel: "Daniel. Please, the baby."
Daniel finally realizes that he's not Hannah. In the courtyard of the apartment building, he is grabbed by the same three monsters that gave Daniel as Hannah a terrible beating. This time the biggest fellow tells his accomplice to stab the bitch. Max shows up with his pistol and fires it in the air. The three men leave Daniel alone after hitting him several more times. The big fellow says: "See you, faggot!"
Max sees Daniel dressed as a woman and Daniel tells him that he is Hannah. Max says he is not Hannah. Max tells Hannah that he himself put her body into the crematorium. Hannah says she doesn't want to die. Max tells Daniel that he has to let Hannah go. Daniel says he can't save Hannah. He comes out of his Hannah personality and realizes that he has to save the baby.
Daniel now burns Hannah's last dress, as a symbol of his letting go of Hannah. Now he goes over to Lilian and their baby.
Lilian gives an operatic performance before a full audience. Daniel is in the audience and Max is in the wings talking to baby Hannah.
The effects of the Holocaust had negative effects on children born even after WWII. In this film, the grandmother of Daniel was still so traumatized by the death of her first grandchild Hannah, that she really never even acknowledged the existence of the living grandchild Daniel. Daniel was hurt by being ignored by his grandmother. He decided he could help his grandmother and himself by doing one thing: dressing up as Hannah and passing as Hannah. This caused the formation of two personalities in Daniel -- that of his sister Hannah and his natural self, negatively effected, negatively effected, of course, by his second personality. Daniel cannot fully function as a male because of his second half, his sister's half. He is scared of settling down with a woman that he loves. All his relationships with women end badly, one way or the other.
Can Daniel be saved by his love of Lilian Glass from America? Daniel doesn't make it easy for Lilian to have a good and a lasting relationship. Daniel keeps screwing up, but this time, he continues to bounce back and work out the problems he helped create. He really loves Lilian and makes the commitment not to destroy his relationship by giving up on it.
Alan Cumming (as Daniel Orgelbrand) was very good. Timothy Bateson (as Max Liebman) was also very good.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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