Pale Mother Life

I was looking for name of WWII film that centres around a woman who develops facial paralysis. I was pretty sure it was a German film. It is about WWII and before and after the war, and the central character is a woman who marries a man whose best friend is a nazi official and late in the film she develops a facial paralysis.

The friend rises high in the party while the husband goes to war and returns a cold and violent man.

Meanwhile, the wife, who is the centre of the film, raises their young child and deals with every adversity calmly and with optimism.

That is until late in the film she develops a facial paralysis and wears a mask over one half of her face to cover her twisted face. This affliction destroys her equanimity and she can barely carry on. It is her breaking point.

I couldn’t think of the name of the film so I asked on Metafilter – the place to ask for the things one does not know – and within a day a couple of people gave the name: Germany, Pale Mother (German: Deutschland bleiche Mutter).

It was made in 1980 in West Germany and written and directed by Helma Sanders-Brahms, and nominated for a Golden Bear award at the 30th Berlin International Film Festival in 1980.

The film was restored and re-released in the UK in 2015 by the British Film Institute. And it must have been on the BFI website that I saw the film.

The title is taken from the poem “Germany’ by Bertolt Brecht that he wrote in 1933. It begins:

Let others speak of their disgrace. I am speaking of my own.
O Germany, pale mother How you sit defiled Among the peoples


I was thinking of the film because I sprained or strained a muscle and ligament that runs over my shoulder blade. And boy, was my equanimity disturbed.

People who live with chronic pain deserve applause just for keeping going when things are tough – like a war of attrition eating at them day after day.

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