• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Berlinale 2016
German late abortion drama brings Berlinale to tears
Julia Jentsch and Bjarn Mädel in 24 Weeks. Photo: DPA

German late abortion drama brings Berlinale to tears

AFP · 15 Feb 2016, 08:31

Published: 15 Feb 2016 08:31 GMT+01:00

The film by Anne Zohra Berrached, 33, tackles a thorny issue in a country in which, according to the producers, more than 90 percent of parents terminate pregnancies in which the foetus is severely disabled. The subject, however, is rarely discussed.

The picture, set in ex-communist east Germany, tells the story of a cabaret performer and her manager husband who already have one child and learn she is pregnant with a second.

However the pair, Astrid and Markus, discover during a prenatal examination that the child will have Down syndrome. Later, in the sixth month of pregnancy, they hear that the boy has congenital heart problems that will require multiple surgeries he may not survive.

Teams of specialists, all played by actual doctors, offer advice to the couple based on their medical expertise. But they leave the parents to wrestle with the complex ethical questions about whether to have the child.

The film presents a society in which religion hardly plays a role but where the abuses under Adolf Hitler, in which 300,000 ill and disabled people were systematically murdered by the Nazis, loom large.

When a babysitter speaks critically of severely disabled children and wonders aloud whether their lives are worth living, Astrid attacks her as a "fascist".

The weight of the choice begins to strain the couple's marriage and their relationship with Astrid's mother, who moves into care for their daughter.

"It was very important for me to do a film which concerns primarily the conflict of making a decision as a couple," Berrached told reporters.

"That's what I wanted to focus on. I didn't want to do a segment for a television news show or something like that."

Berrached, who finished the picture as part of earning her film degree, said the team had spoken to three women who had faced similar choices.

Story continues below…

The filmmakers admitted after a well-received press preview that the subject remained a taboo in Germany and could scare off potential distributors in more socially conservative countries such as Poland and Italy.

Astrid is played by Julia Jentsch, 37, who won the festival's Silver Bear best actress prize in 2005 for her turn as a Nazi resistance martyr in "Sophie Scholl - The Final Days".

Critics said she could also be a frontrunner for acting honours this year on awards night Saturday, when a jury led by actress Meryl Streep hands out the prizes.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Extremist violence 'exploded' in record year for refugees
Left-wing violence at the Blockupy protest in Frankfurt in March 2015. Photo: DPA.

It is now official: 2015 smashed all records for political violence, as the far right attacked refugee homes and the far left responded by attacking them in turn, Interior Ministry figures show.

Merkel: Turkey failing to meet EU terms for visa-free travel
Angela Merkel and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: DPA

The Chancellor warned that visa-free travel was unlikely to be granted to Turkey by July 1st, as originally planned, because Ankara was unlikely to fulfil the preconditions.

10 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
Photo: DPA

The German capital is a place full of surprises and secrets. With its ever-changing life it's hard to keep up with even a fraction of what is going on in the city.

AfD meet with Muslim leaders breaks down in acrimony
AfD leader Frauke Petry (l) and Central Council of Muslims president Aiman Mazyek (r). Photos: DPA

A meeting between far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Muslim leaders ended bitterly on Monday after just an hour of talks.

New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
A baby in intensive care. File photo: DPA

Tens of thousands of people in Germany have shared a Facebook post in which a new father explains how dangerous the herpes virus can be to babies – as illustrated by the tragic case of his own son.

The Local's ultimate guide to summer in Germany
Photo: DPA

Whether you plan to pack your summer with extreme sports or spend it drinking beers in a Berlin park, we've got you covered in our comprehensive guide.

Tornado rips off roofs as storm batters west Germany
A property damages by a tornado in Minden on Sunday evening. Photo: DPA

Five houses had to be evacuated in Minden, North Rhine-Westphalia, after a tornado swept through the town on Sunday.

Merkel meets Erdogan in Istanbul as critics growl
Merkel and Erdogan at a meeting in October 2015. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday in a bid to keep alive a deal to limit the number of refugees arriving in the EU.

Fiat Chrysler suspected of emissions cheating: Germany
The dangerous pollutant nitrogen oxide (NOx) was released into the atmosphere “at more than 10 times the permitted level“. Photo: DPA

German regulators suspect that Italian-American auto maker Fiat Chrysler, like Volkswagen, used illegal software to cheat on emissions tests, a newspaper report said Sunday.

Events in Turkey 'a great concern,' says German leader
Angela Merkel and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2013. Photo: DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said some political developments in Turkey were a source of "great concern” and pledged to address them during a visit to the country on Monday.

Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that will stay with you forever
Technology
Church plans to connect with faithful at Wi-Fi 'Godspots'
Technology
Online hate speech can cost users thousands of Euros
Society
Bavarians in rush for non-lethal weapons licenses
Sport
Here's Germany's Mannschaft for Euro 2016
Culture
The Syrian pianist playing his way into Germans' hearts
The parrot who flew fast enough to trigger a speed camera
Business & Money
Surprise results give Germany strongest growth in two years
Technology
New law could let free Wi-Fi bloom across Germany
Politics
Berlin's plans to beef up the German army
Munich
The bloody knife attack that shocked a Bavarian town
National
Supermarkets must pay massive fine for fixing beer prices
Sport
Lufthansa's Euro 2016 ad takes aim at England
Culture
The 6 German words you need to know for spring
Culture
6 weird and wonderful ways Germans celebrate May 1st
Gallery
Feast your eyes on Germany in springtime bloom
National
4/20: Five things to know about weed in Germany
Berlin
Police break up hipster swarm at vegan restaurant opening
Politics
Merkel allows Erdogan case against German satirist to go ahead
Travel
7 of Germany's most jaw-dropping national parks
Hamburg
Gay penguins move to Hamburg to settle down
Business & Money
See-through €5 coin has collectors lining up
Health
Vegan hemp powder recalled over fear toddlers getting high
7,614
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd