Joy Division (2006 film)
British quad format film poster
|Directed by||Reg Traviss|
|Produced by||Kim Leggatt|
|Written by||Reg Traviss
Ram John Holder
|Music by||George Kallis|
|Edited by||Peter Cartwright|
Hungarian Film Connection
|Distributed by||Momentum Pictures (UK)|
|Running time||105 minutes|
Joy Division is a 2006 British-German-Hungarian film directed by Reg Traviss. The story is a fictional biopic which follows the life of a boy in Germany at the end of World War II into his adulthood in Russia and London during the Cold War. The script was written by Reg Traviss and Rosemary Mason and went into production in 2004 after completion of Traviss' short film JD Pilot in 2003, based upon the same script and which also starred Ed Stoppard in the role of adult Thomas. Joy Division was shown for the film industry at the Cannes Film Festival European Film Market and at the American Film Market in 2005. It was invited to screen at the Copenhagen International Film Festival in 2006 and was released theatrically in the United Kingdom in November 2006.
Thomas (Ed Stoppard), a young German, fights unsuccessfully as one of Nazi Germany's Joy Division youth troops after the Soviet Union invades. In the early 1960s, he loses faith in the ideals he was brought up with, and works as a spy and assassin for the Russians during the Cold War. His story is mostly revealed in flashbacks.
Tom Schilling plays the younger Thomas, who sees his native Germany destroyed by the Soviet invaders. His family is killed, leaving him orphaned, and with only his girlfriend Melanie (Bernadette Heerwagen) left.
His girlfriend Melanie is repeatedly raped by Red Army soldiers and she is eventually killed by a Soviet soldier after having sex with him and two other Soviet soldiers in order to protect Thomas from being beaten and killed by the soldiers.
Years later, he falls in love with Yvonne (Michelle Gayle), while on assignment in Britain; she has no idea what he is really employed to do.
Joy Division is a drama set in the Second World War and in the Cold War as well. It is a non-linear story, told in a series of flashbacks to the mid-1940s and early-1960s, narrated in voice over from the film's present day setting of 1966.
In the East German province of Silesia, 1944, the war has barely hit the home front. Young Thomas, played by Tom Schilling, is a jovial teenage boy and aspiring painter who spends his days trying to romance Melanie (Bernadette Heerwagen), a warmhearted, beautiful teenage neighbour. The pair are both members of the Hitler Youth and see no wrong in their movement or in the movie theater shown documentary about the Kraft Durch Freude, aka Strength Through Joy organisation or in their nation at large. Melanie's mother (Suzanne von Borsody), a more worldly woman also inspires Thomas and Melanie with her avante garde notions of free-thinking. Thomas, smitten with Melanie, begins to paint a portrait of her. The painting is complete towards the year's end but as he presents it to her the Eastern Front collapses and Thomas, though only fourteen, is drafted into the Volkssturm along with the rest of his Hitler Youth unit. Thomas' family are then killed in an air-raid as the aerial assaults increase and after a farewell liaison with Melanie his squad is sent off to defend the Third Reich, facing annihilation at the hands of Soviet shock troops in a disastrous defensive battle inside a factory. Thomas escapes as the sole survivor. Shell-shocked, he takes refuge in a bomb crater where he meets Astrid (Lea Mornar), a student-nurse foraging for food and supplies. Together they flee and join the mass exodus of refugees heading westwards, away from the advancing Soviet Army. Thomas and Astrid bond like brother and sister and rely on each other to survive. During an aerial attack they meet Karl (Thomas Darchinger), who informs them of an army evacuation transport pick-up post, which after weeks of walking they reach together with hundreds of other refugees and retreating soldiers. Fighting for a seat on the lorries, they get separated. Astrid and Karl get aboard the last lorry. Left alone on the road, Thomas is seconded by rag-tag troops into a last-ditch offensive. Fighting alongside a mish-mash of soldiers, including British Free Corps member Harry Stone (Ricci Harnett), he fights for an aleatory success and little respite.
Meanwhile, Thomas' hometown, many miles away, is devastated by Soviet artillery and then assaulted by Soviet shock troops who instantly overrun the town left with only civilian defense structures. The invading soldiers kill and loot. Melanie and her family are found, dragged out from the air-raid shelter and lined up on their knees in the garden. Melanie's grandfather is shoot dead. Her mother, trying to vindicate her father, is shot dead in the process. Her grandmother is bludgeoned by a gun-butt. Melanie is slapped to the ground and gang-raped by soldiers and their officer. Melanie and the other survivors trek through the snowy landscape as refugees but are soon caught in the path of another wave of Soviet troops. Again they are captured, beaten, killed and raped.
Some days later, Thomas wandering in the re-captured town suddenly sees Melanie step off from a refugee lorry. She was left for dead by her rapers, and found on the country roadside by retreating German soldiers. Thomas immediately embraces her but she is in a state of shock and not wanting to be touched. Thomas and Melanie, who took shelter in the stairwell of an apartment building are found in the morning by three soldiers of the Soviet victorious infantry that assaulted the town. As Thomas tries to overcome one of them with his Hitler Youth knife, two others overpower him. They begin a brutal beating of Thomas but stop when Melanie proposes a bargain: her body in exchange for Thomas' life. After a last sadistic gash on Thomas arm, the soldiers get their "reward". Eventually Thomas, bloodied and in pain from the beating, picks up his knife left on the floor while two of the soldiers exit the building, drunk. He hears Melanie scream and sees the third soldier, drunk, pursuing her up the stairs and firing his pistol at her. Thomas races up to protect her, reaches the drunken soldier and plunges his knife into his chest killing him. But also Melanie is dead. Alone again, Thomas sits at a roadside on the edge of town amongst rubble and bombed buildings. A tank pulls up next to him and Tanya (Kincso Petho), a young idealistic Commissar, dismounts and sits beside Thomas. Tanya enthusiastically explains that Stalin provides for orphans and invites him to join on her journey back home. Thomas obliges and aboard the tank with Tanya heads towards Russia.
Seventeen years after World War II, Thomas, now played by Ed Stoppard, has himself become a Soviet soldier of Officer rank. Among other things, it transpires that Thomas had been trained in a Suvorov Military School and later he was admitted into the Soviet Military Intelligence, having served with distinction in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Thomas then resigns from the military. No reason is given. In his apartment he boxes-up his belongings, which include military decorations, a painting depicting refugees and soldiers and many old photographs, several of himself and Tanya at the end of the war and standing outside the military school. But he gazes particularly at a photo of Melanie. Next it unfolds that Thomas has been recruited by the KGB. He sits in a briefing with two KGB Officers, Krivosheyev (Benedek Gulya) and Sokolov (Peter Kertesz) and is shown a film which features a former Nazi Gestapo officer denouncing his past and pledging allegiance to the USSR. Thomas is told that Albert Steiner, the man in the film, had become one of the KGB agents in London, but that he had defected to the British and subsequently vanished. As a consequence the rest of Steiner's London contacts where also under suspicion. Thomas is sent on a mission to London in order to join Steiner's former cell and to observe the loyalty of the agents within it.
Thomas arrives in London and after making contact with his controller Tally-Ho (Bernard Kay), a British man who communicates solely over a phone line, finds a room in a lodging house run by a Neville(Ram John Holder), a Jamaican man. His niece Yvonne (Michelle Gayle) is living there also. Thomas is instantly drawn to Yvonne, a beautiful, warm spirited and fun-loving artist of the Beat Generation, but keeps a safe distance as he focuses on his mission. He meets with his contact, Dennis (Bernard Hill), the main organizer of Steiner's former cell. Thomas does not report any suspicions to Tally-Ho, though Dennis made some un-orthodox comments, seemingly on purpose, and decides to watch Dennis further. Yvonne, pleasantly intrigued by Thomas, persists to get familiar with him. The pair form a bond and discover they share a passion for art as well as a mutual attraction. Thomas becomes more acquainted with Dennis after several more meetings and eventually the two men discover they both share a dream for freedom. Nevertheless Thomas assassinates with professional expertise a former RAF Commander, as ordered by Tally-Ho. As Yvonne introduces Thomas to the London art underworld of Beatnik basement clubs and galleries the pair fall in love and form a meaningful relationship, whilst Thomas actually leads a double-life. Unbeknownst to Thomas, he is being watched by Harris (Sean Chapman), a ruthless British Secret Service Officer, with links to Steiner, and answerable to Commander Bothringaye, a senior civil servant who runs an autonomous security department. They decide to apprehend Dennis as the supposed leader not only of the spy-cell but also of a planned coup, in collaboration with local Communist groups. Thomas then receives an order from Tally-Ho to assassinate Dennis.
Thomas arrives at Dennis' house and Dennis instinctively understands what the situation is. After a long and disillusioned discussion about the existence and role of low-rank spy agents, Dennis considering useless running away and breaking contacts, as suggested by Thomas, shoots himself in the mouth. Thomas is met by a new contact, Stephanie (Sybille Gebhardt), a stern and good looking East German agent, who informs Thomas that Dennis had been killed by the British Secret Police. Unsure whether he should mistrust Stephanie or the source behind her information, Thomas arrives later that night to meet Stephanie again but she does not turn up as she has been apprehended and now is brutally interrogated by Harris and Bothringaye. Nevertheless Stephanie refuses to crack under their pressure. An agent in the interrogation pulls Stephanie off her chair and Harris instructs Stephanie to strip naked. She does as she is instructed and continues to defy breaking. Meanwhile Thomas leaves the rendezvous, resigned to the belief that either Stephanie was a double-agent or that she had been captured. Harris and Bothringaye return to the room during the night and try to make Stephanie crack with another interrogation. They plant the idea in her head that Thomas had defected and was the one who had betrayed her.
Thomas decides that he must leave his post, as his position has become compromised in light of Stephanie's disappearance and of her inaccurate information regarding Dennis' death. However, he does not want to leave Yvonne and the life he has made with her. He also knows that not returning to the USSR would not be an option as it would be viewed as a defection. Thomas calls into Tally-Ho while he considers his options, but Tally-Ho orders him to break contact immediately, explaining that Stephanie had been deported and that he was in danger. As Thomas makes his way to a London Underground station he is followed - his pursuer being Krivosheyev, who suddenly corners Thomas, calls him a traitor and attempts to stab him. However, a British agent who had been following both of them approaches from behind and kills Krivosheyev with a poisoned dart. As Krivosheyev falls, Thomas makes his escape. Back in his lodgings, Thomas finds out from Neville that Harris left a note for him. The note suggests that they meet and talk over his problems. Thomas tells Yvonne his entire story and that he must leave. He shows her the photograph of Melanie and explains that for 17 years the photo was the only part of him that was 'real', but that now she (Yvonne) had made him feel 'real again'. At dawn Thomas on a remote air-strip has a rendezvous with Tally-Ho who is nothing other than Bothringaye. He explains that the British believed Thomas to be Dennis' successor, and so wanted him to defect. In order to persuade him to do so, they made the KGB believe he had already defected, by way of telling Stephanie and by killing Krivosheyev. Bothingaye / Tally-Ho is actually a triple-agent and Thomas merely a pawn in his game. Tally-Ho gives Thomas a new passport with some US Dollar bills as a hint and suggests that he disappear.
On a remote petrol station in Mexico, Thomas, sipping a Coke inside his car, gets suspicious and distressed by two men, a European and a Mexican, who pull up in a pickup behind him. They get out and stand there seemingly checking out his car and watching him. Thomas watches them, worrying about Soviet agents sent to kill him, or CIA or British sent to kidnap him. Before Thomas can react, the situation becomes more relaxed, the two men sipping their beers and, eventually, driving off on their truck. Yvonne is getting back from the petrol station store. They smile to each other. They kiss happily and drive off too.
Nick Hasted wrote in The Independent, “Inspired by historical accounts that chronicle suffering within the Third Reich, cinema is starting to look compassionately at the Nazis”, and, more specifically, “Reg Traviss's Joy Division, most remarkably, ignores the Holocaust, instead following a German boy soldier in 1944 through to his life as a Soviet spy in Sixties London, showing the subjective experience of German civilians as they're bombed by the British and raped by the Russians, and the savage situations its uncomprehending 14-year-old Nazi is subject to”.
- Hasted, Nick (Nov 17, 2006). "A subject for sympathy: Germany's rehabilitation". The Independent (London: independent.co.uk). Retrieved Nov 1, 2013.