Editors Note: “Price is Right” is a running column from local film enthusiast Mr. Price. He reviews films that he feels that people should watch. Whatever film he chooses, we’ll play at an upcoming seasonal film series event.
“Waiting for Waldemar” pushes the boundaries of the documentary genre to tell the story of a family’s difficult history. The result of its innovative structure is a compelling film which blends the realism of a documentary with the emotional resonance of a scripted story.
The film tells the story of a family of ethnic Germans living in Ukraine during the Second World War, forced to flee as refugees in the wake of the German advance and retreat through the region. The reenacted story of the titular Waldemar and his family is intercut with interviews of the surviving members of that family, the family of director Eric Spoeth.
It is this mixture of actual testimonial and dramatic rendition which gives “Waiting for Waldemar” its truly unique character. The portrayal of Waldemar by Vance Avery helps us connect with the image of him described by his children in the present, and the speculation by his son and daughter as to Waldemar’s eventual fate is granted an even greater impact by the scenes of those imaginings. “Waiting for Waldemar” makes a strong choice in blurring the lines between documentary and biopic, and that choice pays off. Whereas footage from the period may have been too impersonal for this story, the recreation of the family’s struggle reinforces the emotional impact of a painful history.
A unique, personal style suffuses all of “Waiting for Waldemar”. The film utilizes a truly innovative blending of genres and styles to tell its story in the most effective way possible. The end result is a resonant example of the benefits that come from taking risks with art.