Worthwhile Holocaust-themed melodrama
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have mixed feelings about "Aimee and Jaguar" but more positive than negative. It's based on a true story set in Berlin in 1943. The film however begins in the present as we're introduced to one of the protagonists as an old woman. We then flash back to the war years where we meet Lilly Wust, married with four children, with a German soldier husband who occasionally comes home from the front. Felice is a Jewish lesbian, boldly hiding out with forged identity papers, working for a Nazi newspaper editor (brilliantly played by Peter Weck). Felice's girlfriend Ilse is Lily's household servant. When thrill-seeker Felice spies Lilly for the first time, she's determined to make it with her simply as a game. But after Lilly's marriage falls apart, the two fall in love. Along the way, one of Felice's lesbian friends is shot down in the street by the Gestapo. After about a year and a half, Felice's cover is blown and she's shipped off to a concentration camp where she presumably is killed (in real life, Felice's fate is unknown to this day).
Most of "Aimee and Jaguar" focuses on the relationship between the two lovers. It's a mature look at a budding lesbian relationship and there are some sensitively photographed love scenes. Felice adopts the masculine persona of 'Jaguar' and Lilly is the demure 'Aimee'. Most of the conflict within the relationship is primarily centered on Lilly's confusion about her sexuality, self-worth and decision to involve herself with Felice whose sensitive side is repressed due to her constant fear of being arrested by the Nazis.
While the relationship between the two lovers is at times compelling, it also becomes a little tiresome due to the fact that it's unnecessarily drawn out.
"Aimee and Jaguar" is also a subtle Holocaust-related story, focusing on how ordinary German civilians reacted during the Nazi horror. Not all the Germans are happy with Hitler. In an early scene, Lilly's Nazi lover overhears Lilly's father badmouthing the regime and threatens to turn him in. Others act totally out of self-interest: a woman ends up selling black market food coupons to Felice and her friends inside a bathroom while they're attending a Nazi social function at a hotel. And then there are the hard core Nazis, such as Felice's newspaper editor employer who boasts that the German people are capable of "tremendous feats" despite all the bad news coming in from the war front.
In addition to the intense interplay between Felice and Lilly, there's also some nice tension between Ilse and Felice after Ilse becomes jealous over Felice's newfound interest in Lilly. Less interesting and predictable are the long, drawn out scenes between Lilly and her husband, Gunther, whose excursions from the war front are never explained.
Ultimately, the intensity of the performances of the actresses who play Felice and Lilly make up for the lack of conflict between the principal characters. As a history lesson, "Aimee & Jaguar" is also worth seeing, chronicling the Holocaust from the 'home front' perspective.