Pramen zivota (Spring of Life) (2000)
Director: Milan Cieslar.
Starring: Monika Hilmerová (Grétka), Michal Sieczkowski (Leo), Johana Tesarová (Klára), Vilma Cibulková (Waage), Karel Dobry (Odillo), Bronislav Poloczek (Kasuba), Josef Somr (Teacher), Bozidara Turzonovová (Mother), Alois Svehlík (Father), Vítezslav Jandák (Lottes), Lubomír Kostelka, Zdenka Sajfertova, Elin Spidlová (Rosa), Katerina Hajna (Janka), Kristyna Lutanska (Inge).
German SS program to build an Aryan race of supermen and superwomen
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
A soldier finds a political flyer on the street. A woman is quickly burning papers. The soldier goes into the building. A group of women are saying the Lord's Prayer. A different soldier comes into the building. The first soldier finds a whole group of children together. There are also many babies and very young children in cribs. The first soldier reaches the German woman in a military uniform who has been burning papers and x-rays. She is dying because she has slit her wrists.
Flashback. Sudetenland 1939. A family works on their farm. They desperately need some rain. The father is Alois; the daughter is Gretka. The mother becomes sick and has to be taken to the house. They will call the doctor for her. Getka goes to get her mother a drink of water, but by the time she returns, her mother is dead. Her father gives Gretka the mother's cross to wear around her neck.
Gretka gets in trouble when she is the only one not there to greet the messengers of the Reich. A teacher comes to the cemetery and tells her that German girls don't cry. The German doctors are selecting women for breeding. They look at the x-ray of Gretka, a Slavic woman. The head man of the project tells Gretka to come to him. He puts a necklace around her neck with a Nazi symbol as the pendant to indicate a person representing the new pure blood.
At work in the factory, Gretka learns that she now has a lighter work schedule. Her friend Liza ignores her calls, so she rushes over to ask what's the matter. Liza just holds the necklace insignia around Gretka's neck, looks at it and then releases it. Liza gets on the train. When Gretka gets onto the same railway car, Liza tells her that the "better" people ride in the front cars. The Germans are looking under the cars searching for someone. A woman comes into the car where Gretka is the only occupant and gives Gretka her little baby girl, named Sussje. A note with the child says to raise her as a Christian. And save her life!
At home with the baby, Gretka's father says he would run away if he were her. He sees their neighbor Setlerov coming and tells his daughter that she better go or soon the Gestapo will know all about the little girl. Gretka says hello to her neighbor as she leaves her house, but the old woman only says under her breath: "Czech scum!"
Gretka receives an Aryan purity certificate and is told she has been chosen for an elite project. When alone with her teacher, she says she is a little afraid. The teacher says it's a great honor and it's her duty. He goes on to praise Hitler. He tells Gretka that they will teach her swimming and short-hand typing. Gretka is put on the train and crosses over the Oder River into Germany. She tells the nun across from her that she is headed to the Isolde Sanatorium. The nun is shocked saying that there are only SS-men there.
The train lets Gretka off at Isolde Spa. She trudges through the snow. Gretka asks a young man which path does she take to the Isolde Sanatorium. He points in the direction she is to go. The path takes her right onto a lake and she falls through the ice. She calls for help. The young man she passed earlier does not come to help her. German soldiers run over to her and pull her out. She is put in bed and sleeps through the night to the morning. Upon rising she meets Klara, the Director of the Race Commission. Gretka tells Klara that the young man sent her straight out onto the ice. Klara makes a telephone call to have the Polish fellow picked up.
Gretka gets in line to be measured and examined by the female gynecologist. Their talk is interrupted by a telephone call. They want Gretka to confirm the identity of the young man who misled her. She identifies him and the SS men throw a bucket of water on him as he kneels in the snow.
Gretka comes down to meet the other young ladies. At night Gretka sees the young man still kneeling in the snow with an SS guard watching him. The girls say he will be dead by midnight.
The next morning all the girls dress in gym uniforms as if the weather was warm. They go outside and do their exercises. Gretka sees the SS men removing the young man. After gym the young women shower together. Gretka is shy and keeps her slip on. The girls tease her. She gets dressed and sneaks out to ask about the young man, whose name is Leo. He is still alive. The man with Leo tells Gretka: "What a thing to do, girl!"
The young women are taught to shoot rifles. After she shoots, Gretka goes to the doctor. She says she has a fever. After she gets the medicine, she runs down to give the medicine to Leo. She gets in bed with him to warm him. Before she leaves she puts more wood in the stove for him.
Gretka won't fence, so the doctor tells her the theory of the master race: "A weak person is someone who must be eliminated." The master race will become the elite. Gretka raises her sword and vigorously attacks her teacher, who is happy to see her new attitude.
At night Gretka goes to see Leo, but she can't get in. The door is locked. She begs Leo to open up. Leo doesn't, so Gretka leaves the medicine and an orange by the door and goes. Leo didn't open the door because he is being treated by the woman doctor.
The next day Gretka is forced to skate even though she is afraid of the ice because of what happened to her. Gretka goes over to see Leo. He is cutting out two dead swans from the ice that held them prisoner. Gretka helps him dig a shallow grave to bury the swans. She sees a yellow star on Leo's coat. He tells her that he is their hostage. His parents ran away to Sweden. They send money that the Gestapo always takes. Leo also tells her that the doctor is a lesbian.
Gretka starts to worry about Leo being Jewish. She tells Leo that she lay by his side and he touched her. Now she will be damned forever. Her blood is tainted. Leo tells her to go be with her own kind! He adds: "Usually whores get paid, but you do it out of conviction. You stupid SS-sheep!" He adds that she will be "a mattress for the SS-men!" Gretka runs away.
The head of the program arrives. A ceremony is performed honoring the concept of the master race. The next day Gretka is examined by the doctor.
Gretka tries to leave. The guards let her out through the gate because she has a signed document giving her permission. The guards are a bit suspicious, but let her go. One of the guards calls and learns that Gretka has escaped. Two guards on a motorcycle chase after her.
In the confusion Leo runs out through the gate. He runs over to the train station. Leo sees Gretka get on the train. He jumps on the train. He has to give the conductor his watch to stay on. A short distance from the station the guards stop the train and take Gretka off the train and back to the institute. When Leo sees them taking Gretka back, he jumps off the train and returns to the institute.
Young women arrive from Norway to go to the institute. Gretka works off her punishment working as a maid. Leo has to work in the sewer and he stinks. He passes by Gretka. He is ordered to get naked and wash himself in front of the laundry women.
Gretka learns that Leo will soon be sent away because all Jews have to be removed. The doctor tells her about the man she has selected for Gretka.
Gretka's man arrives. He's blonde like her. He has brought some champagne for them to drink. They go through a ceremony. Music is played for their enjoyment. The officer dances with Gretka. It starts to rain and everyone runs for cover. Gretka runs to go see Leo. He tells her he will be transported the day after tomorrow. She asks Leo to keep her warm. Her German partner calls for her. He shouts" "Number 14, where are you?" The fellow is drunk and says he will shoot her eyes out. In the room he tells her to take off her clothes. She is unresponsive and he tells her that she is still a child and does not excite him at all. He throws Gretka her clothes and she dresses. He starts talking about the Jewish women who were buried alive, many of them girls like Gretka. He makes her swear to say nothing about what didn't happen between them. He would be labeled a homosexual and that is a punishable offense. She swears. He goes to sleep and she sneaks out to Leo to sleep with him. They make love.
It's time for Leo to go. At breakfast she watches as Leo walks by. He is taken to the gate where he is told to wait. Gretka's chosen man comes by in a jeep and has Leo jump in. Gretka sees them both leave. All the women at the institute now have their babies. After feeding the babies are taken away from the mothers. The doctors kill one of the babies, the one who was the smallest.
Gretka sneaks into the office and learns the name of her baby. She then takes the keys and lets herself into the nursery to talk with her baby boy. She writes his number on her left forearm. At night the women oversleep. In the morning one of the young women says they put something in their coffee to make them oversleep. Someone shouts they are taking their babies away. All the women jump up and run downstairs, but the door is locked from the outside.
Gretka asks if Leo is still alive. The doctor tells her he didn't even make it to the camp. Then she tells Gretka that she will find her child in Pommern, Seestrasse 6.
The women are now leaving the institute. Gretka burns her suitcase and the Nazi necklace. She then just walks away. When she reaches the lake she starts running. A soldier shoots at her, but misses. They come after her. Gretka is caught and sent to a concentration camp. The Russians take over the camp. Gretka smiles and laughs. She runs to the sea and prays to find her son. Gretka goes to find her son in Pommern, but everything has been bombed to smithereens. A man says they moved the children, but he doesn't know where they were taken. She continues her search.
Gretka finds the nurse Klara and she asks Klara where they took her son. She is of no help, so Gretka tells her that her son's father was Leo. Klara gets very angry and starts to abuse and kick Gretka. The guards have to pull her off Gretka. Klara still refuses to tell her.
Still wearing her concentration camp outfit, Gretka comes home. At home is the child she was given by the escaping mother. Her little girl has flaming red hair. She brings some bread for the little girl to eat. As they sit and eat, they stare at each other.
Good movie. There are few movies about the eugenics program of the Nazis to build a master race. It's a pretty disgusting idea. With a super race all the other races would become their slaves. No thanks. Monika Hilmerová as Grétka was very good. She certainly seemed determined not to go along with the master race idea. It was neat when super Nazi Klara learns of Grétka's secret.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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