Ruth Beckermann was born in Vienna, where she also spent her childhood. After her studies in journalism and history of art in Vienna, Tel Aviv and New York, she took her PhD in 1977 at the University of Vienna. She since contributed as a journalist to several Austrian and Swiss magazines. Since 1985 she works as a writer and filmmaker.
In “East of War," the spectacle offered by the interaction between several ex-members of the Nazi Wehrmacht is enthralling. At the time the film was made — in the mid 1990s — they had already aged, over five decades having passed since the end of the conflagration. They are filmed by Ruth Beckermann while visiting a contemporary exhibition about the atrocities committed on the Eastern Front by the Wehrmacht troupes during World War II. Their reactions are divergent: some are either vocal in their criticism of the negative light in which they and their fellow soldiers’ intervention has been painted, or they try to contextualise the magnitude of their crimes by comparing them to those of their old Russian enemies, while others are reliving episodes that to them were harrowing and abhorrent, which they’ve never been able to forget or make their peace with. The presence of the filmmaker and of the camera crew generates all sorts of hilarious and/or outrageous moments, always turning their attention to the visitors of the exhibitions, rather than the exhibits themselves. What matters to them is the relationship of the present with the past, instead of the past itself. The result of this intention and of an astonishing ability to record the genuine, undisguised reactions of the characters is a masterpiece of human comedy, calling into a question a series of universal themes, such as forgetting and the memory of the past, or people’s ability and inability to face their own traumas and past actions with honesty and without warping them to their own advantage. (Andrei Rus)
awards and festivals
Berlin International Film Festival 1997
Cinéma du Réel 1997 - Jury Special Award, Libraries Award