Poland, 2011, 57 min. | Poland, Germany, 2012, 29 min,
Tonia and Her Children is a film about the consequences of the ideological choices of parents and the impact of them on their children. A story of siblings, Werka and Marcel Lechtman, who were sent to an orphanage when their pre-war communist mother was sent to prison, accused of being an American spy. The protagonists recollect the past and try to understand their mother’s choices.
Two women, one house. A story about a Pole and a German on enemy sides and their parallel lives that are accidentally brought together. The film confronts the similarities shared by different experiences. The visual narration is guided by memories and archives. Here traditional documentation confronts the experimental use of archival footage giving a cinematic impression.
In Tonia and Her Children the arrest-ridden life of Tonia Lechtman is reconstructed by her two children and filmmaker Marcel Lozinski. The other film, My House Without Me, reconstructs the parallel experiences of a German and a Polish woman during and after the Second World War.
Both films rely on the memories of their protagonists. It is commonly understood that human memory is notoriously fallible. These two films do not present memories as completed, recountable histories but as products of mental work, constructed and reworked in dialogues with others and with artefacts.
Tonia Lechtman was Jewish, Polish, and a communist. Not a very fortunate combination in her time, it turns out. The film starts quite conventionally: through photos we are introduced to Tonia and her daughter and son, Werka and Marcel. The film continues with the children’s (they are now past middle-age) recollections from the early fifties, when Tonia had to leave them in a children’s home because she had to face charges of bourgeois sympathies and collaboration with the enemy.
The aesthetics of Tonia And Her Children seem pretty straightforward: Werka and Marcel sit at a table with filmmaker Marcel Lozinski and reconstruct their mother’s life story with the help of documents, letters, photo’s, film, their own, and each others’ memories. Shot in black and white, and consisting mainly of close-ups and medium close-ups, brother and sister remember, talk, read letters and reports, discuss pictures, and comment. Lozinski listens, nods, asks a question or two, and shows footage of Tonia, shot for an unfinished film decades ago, when he was still in film school.
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