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'The Flat' tells a personal Nazi-era story with broader implications

Posted 10:54pm on Thursday, Dec. 06, 2012

Unrated; 97 min.

Israel's top-grossing documentary of last year, The Flat succeeds by being wide-ranging as well as particular. It tells an out-of-the-ordinary personal story and examines broad issues of societal memory and selective amnesia.

It all begins with the flat of the title, the Tel Aviv apartment of Gerda Tuchler, grandmother of director Arnon Goldfinger. When Tuchler dies at 98, the entire family gathers to dispose of the possessions of a lifetime.

The gathering is initially not very compelling, but that changes with the chance discovery, buried by decades of detritus, of copies of Der Angriff, or The Attack, a virulently pro-Nazi newspaper edited by Joseph Goebbels.

The shock of finding those papers is soon overtaken by a greater one: Under the headline "A Nazi Travels to Palestine," these journals tell the story of a prominent party functionary named Leopold von Mildenstein who visited the Holy Land with his wife in the company of a pair of ardent German Zionists -- Kurt and Gerda Tuchler, the filmmaker's grandparents.

Agitated by the information, and by the discovery that his mother neither knew about this history nor seems to care much about it now, the filmmaker embarks on an investigation of the extent of his grandparents' relationship with the von Mildensteins and what caused it.

The Flat turns into something of a detective story, as Goldfinger follows leads to unearth unknown aspects of both his own family and the von Mildensteins, discoveries that are so unnerving he is not sure with whom he should share the resulting information.

Exclusive: Landmark Magnolia, Dallas; opens Dec. 14 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

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