New DVDs: German World War II mini-series stunning portrait of evil

Volker Bruch stars as the idealist Wilhelm in "Generation War," a mini-series that led to much heated debate when it ran in Germany last year.
Volker Bruch stars as the idealist Wilhelm in "Generation War," a mini-series that led to much heated debate when it ran in Germany last year.
Posted: May 10, 2014

Few TV shows have caused such heated debate in Germany as last year's Generation War, a three-part, 279-minute mini-series about WWII that aired on the nation's public TV network.

Distinguished by solid acting, high production values, and slick editing, the story follows five young friends as they travel very different paths through Germany from 1941, when the Nazis were at the height of their power, to the war's disastrous aftermath.

The story is narrated by the group's idealist, Wilhelm, an infantry lieutenant with a promising military career who fights out of a sense of duty, not ideology.

Sent to the Russian front, he becomes disillusioned when he realizes the Nazi military's mission includes the wholesale slaughter of prisoners of war and civilians.

Wilhelm's men include his sensitive younger brother, Friedhelm, a literary scholar with no taste for violence. Their roles are reversed when the younger brother embraces something Wilhelm cannot understand: Surviving this war will require one to be inhuman, cruel, vicious.

The do-gooder, Charlotte, volunteers as a field nurse, but holds fast to anti-Semitic ideology, which leads her to perpetrate an atrocity. Greta, a cabaret singer, comes off as an opportunist who sleeps with an influential Gestapo officer to further her career, all the while using his connections to find a way for her Jewish boyfriend, Viktor, to escape Berlin.

The group's sole Jewish member, Viktor spends the war on the run from the Gestapo, traveling throughout Central Europe and witnessing countless horrors.

A masterpiece with a wide, epic scope critics compared to Saving Private Ryan and Gone With the Wind, Generation War is a stunning portrait of human evil. ( www.musicboxfilms.com; $29.95 DVD; $34.95 Blu-ray; not rated)

Other titles of note

Orange is the New Black: Season 1. Adapted from Piper Kerman's memoir, Netflix's 13-episode dramedy stars Taylor Schilling as a successful upper-middle-class Manhattanite who recounts the 15 months she once spent in prison for drug offenses. Laura Prepon is brilliant as her onetime lover who happens to be an international drug smuggler. ( www.lionsgateshop.com; $39.97 DVD; $39.98 Blu-ray; not rated)

Deadly Code. John Malkovich stars in this true story as the leader of one of the many criminal clans that effectively run the economy in Transnistria, a tiny breakaway state west of Ukraine. Due Tuesday, the film has the feel of a classic mob yarn. ( www.lionsgateshop.com; $26.98; rated R)

Perry Mason Movie Collection Volume 2. Raymond Burr stars as the crime-solving lawyer in six feature-length mysteries that aired from 1987 to 1989. The three-disc box set is due Tuesday. ( www.paramount.com/movies/home-media; $59.99. not rated)

Trap for Cinderella. This twisted Hitchcockian thriller from Iain Softley ( The Skeleton Key) stars Tuppence Middleton as a young woman struck with amnesia - and a growing state of guilt - after escaping a house fire that kills a childhood friend. ( www.mpihomevideo.com; $24.98 not rated)

Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? Due Tuesday, this innovative documentary from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind helmer Michel Gondry uses animation to chronicle the life and work of Noam Chomsky, one of America's most controversial left-wing public intellectuals. ( www.mpihomevideo.com; $24.98; not rated)

The Veronica Mars Movie. Kristen Bell returns as Veronica in this sequel to the TV show. Now a lawyer in New York, Veronica returns home to Neptune, Calif., to help defend her old flame Logan (Jason Dohring), who is accused of killing his girlfriend. ( www.wbshop.com; $28.98 for DVD or Blu-ray; rated PG-13)


Most titles also available for digital download from major retailers.

tirdad@phillynews.com

215-854-2736

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