In a year when more and more directors are turning to fiction for their movies, two of the best dramas at the New York Film Festival were based on novels. Andrezej Wajda's A Love in Germany is based on the novel by Rolf Hochhuth about a forbidden love affair during World War II. The drama is set in a small German town where Paulina runs a grocery store while her husband is away serving in the army. She falls madly in and passionately in love with Stani, a Polish prisoner of war who does odd jobs in the community. He is young enough to be her son.
At first, their couplings are in secret, but as their libidos heat up, they become obsessed with making love. Soon everyone from the mayor to a prying next-door neighbor to Paulina's son knows about their liaisons. The penalty for their love is death for the POW and imprisonment for Paulina. An effort is made to pass Stani off as an Aryan, but the young Pole will not disavow his roots to escape death. Paulina, even in the presence of her cuckolded husband, refuses to claim she was raped in order to deny the affair. The drama hurtles to a finale in which another Polish prisoner of war is offered three cigarettes to hang his countryman.
Andrezej Wajda directs this steamy drama with one eye on the exploration of personal relationships and the other on the delineation of Nazi totalitarian politics. He affirms the power of love in the face of death and condemns the German community for its culpability in the fate of the lovers. Hanna Schygulla's portrait of the reckless Paulina whose thirst for a sexual connection which admits no limits is a tour de force performance. She has become one of Europe's most accomplished actresses.