Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Masserberg (4 Stars)

The picture above looks like the scene from a horror film. It's actually a building that was used as an eye clinic in Masserberg in East Germany, but is now in use as a hotel. A German television reporter who was once a patient has written a novel set in this clinic. It's not a true story, it's a work of fiction, but she claims that it was a way for her to deal with an unpleasant episode in her life. The novel was filmed in 2010, but it isn't yet available on DVD.

In 1984 a 17-year-old girl called Melanie Tauber is in the eye clinic, sharing a room with three old ladies. She's already been in the clinic for two years and there is no sign of improvement. On the contrary, she is in danger of going blind and the doctors still don't know the reason for her condition. A new Cuban eye surgeon, Dr. Sanchez, starts work in the hospital and the two fall in love. The doctor arranges for her to be examined by a specialist, who advises that she should be tested for syphilis. The test is positive, but she can't be treated because it's an expensive procedure and she isn't important enough to deserve a cure. Dr. Sanchez suggests that they should flee to the West in order to get treatment for her.

That sounds simple enough. Except that the doctor is already married, which he has forgotten to tell Melanie. He has also acted as an informer for the East German secret police (Stasi), and he is being threatened with prison if he refuses to give information on Melanie. Of course, there are other Stasi informers in the clinic, and one is even planted in Melanie's room.

It's a weepy love story which shows flawed characters struggling to survive in dark times. The doctor is far from perfect, but we can see that he has genuine love for Melanie, who puts her complete trust in him. Love stories are often idealised (unless they are true stories), but this is a gritty story that the viewers can relate to.

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