Golden Globe® Nominee Berlin 1997. An estate agent and clients are looking around a slightly delapidated flat. An old lady is sitting next to her belongings, waiting to go into an old people’s home. Over half a century ago, in the middle of the second world war, this flat was a meeting point for young people and a hideout for outsiders.
Lilly Wust (Juliane Köhler) leads a conventional life, not suspecting that she will soon be the central figure in extraordinary events. In 1943 she is in her late twenties, has four children, and is a good housewife, although she frequently has lovers. Her husband Günther (Detlev Buck), a soldier on active duty, also has affairs. The couple lives a bourgeois life, but not repressed, as far as sex is concerned. At a concert, Lilly meets a young woman in passing who will turn her life upside down.
At first she knows nothing about Felice Schragenheim (Maria Schrader), neither that she is friends with Lilly’s maid, Ilse, nor that she is Jewish and living in the underground. There is no particular reason why the brief encounter between the two women should have consequences, since both women are preoccupied with their own survival. Every night there are bombing raids over Berlin, Lilly has to care for her children, and Felice is constantly in danger of being arrested by the Gestapo. Fate brings the two women together a second time, and Lilly feels that she is the object of Felice’s desires. She is attracted and fascinated, but also confused.
Felice is completely different from all the women Lilly has met so far in her life. She is more self-confident, energetic and intelligent. Felice’s women friends also have these qualities, which bewilder Lilly. One day Felice embraces Lilly and kisses her on the mouth in a way Lilly has never experienced before. She is shocked, slaps Felice, and turns away from her; and yet she feels that something has begun from which she will not be able to escape.
A passionate love affair begins amidst the bombing raids and the threat of persecution. The two women write letters and poems to one another almost every day. They call one another Aimée (Lilly) and Jaguar (Felice). But Lilly does not really know much about this woman Felice, who disappears for days on end without satisfactory explanation. Eventually, Lilly is overcome by jealousy and Felice is forced to admit that she is Jewish. Felice, who is working for a Nazi newspaper under a false name and delivering information to a resistance group, knows how dangerous this admission could be, since Lilly’s husband is clearly a Nazi and there is a bust of Hitler in Lilly’s flat. But Lilly surpasses herself; she lets Felice move into her flat and divorces her husband. The two women make a pact of love and marriage. They try to block out the dreadful reality of war and persecution, but it catches up with them. One hot day in August 1944, after an outing to the banks of the Havel where they swam, played around and photographed one another, the Gestapo is waiting in Lilly’s flat…
- German with English subtitles