There's something shambling and unassuming about
It all begins with the flat of the title, an apartment in Tel Aviv belonging to Gerda Tuchler, the grandmother of director Arnon Goldfinger. When Tuchler dies at 98, the entire family gathers to decide how to dispose of the possessions of a lifetime, seven decades of which were spent in that one space.
Though she'd lived in Israel all that time after emigrating with her husband, Kurt, from
That family gathering is initially not very compelling, but everything changes with the chance discovery, buried by decades of detritus, of copies of "Der Angriff," or "The Attack," a virulently pro-Nazi newspaper edited by Joseph Goebbels himself and dating from fall 1934.
The shock of finding those papers is soon overtaken by a greater one: Under the headline "A Nazi Travels to
Agitated by the information and by the parallel discovery that his mother, Hannah, neither knew about this history nor seems to care much about it now, filmmaker Goldfinger embarks on an investigation to find out the extent of his grandparents' relationship with the von Mildensteins and what caused it. The first part of that answer turns out to be easy to come by. For a brief moment in time during the 1930s, the
But then Goldfinger realizes something more perplexing: These two couples remained friends for quite some time, not only after the Palestine trip but even after
Helped by an old envelope found in Gerda's papers, the filmmaker contacts the von Mildenstein's agreeable daughter, Edda, who lives in Wuppertal.
At this early point, "The Flat" turns into something of a detective story, as Goldfinger unearths unknown aspects of both his own family and the von Mildensteins, discoveries that are so unnerving he is not sure with whom he should share the resulting information.
Some of the themes "The Flat" addresses, like the notion of why one generation asks questions about World War II and
On the other hand, a story this singular potently illustrates humanity's almost infinite ability to compartmentalize unpleasant information, as well as the need for friendship as a reflection of self-image that is powerful enough to survive what would seem to be a suffocating reality. No definitive answers are possible, which makes them all the more provocative.