Martin Goldsmith never knew what happened to his parents before they escaped from Germany in 1941. Over a weekend, he confronts his father and we are brought back to the complex and confusing 1930s when the parents were young musicians.
Hailed as “a masterpiece,” “a miracle,” “exhilarating,” and “sublime” by critics in Europe, and “haunting” and “phenomenal” by The Hollywood Insider, Winter Journey is both a highly personal meditation on fate and a fascinating exploration of a little-known aspect of the Nazi era of German history. Directed by Academy Award-nominated Danish filmmaker Anders Ostergaard, Winter Journey also stands as the final film in the storied career of the great Swiss actor Bruno Ganz. Best known for starring in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and The American Friend and his stunning portrayal of Adolf Hitler in Downfall, here Ganz plays George Goldsmith, a retired musician and furniture salesman with a closely-guarded secret. Once again quoting The Hollywood Insider, Ganz’s performance in WJ is “a perfect distillation of the actor’s distinguished career and a fitting epilogue.”
George Goldsmith, nee Guenther Ludwig Goldschmidt, met his future wife, Rosemarie Gumpert, when they were both members of the Judische Kulturbund, or Jewish Cultural Association, a remarkable ensemble of Jewish musicians, actors, and dancers that was maintained as an insidious propaganda tool by Minister Joseph Goebbels. Guenther and Rosemarie performed with the Kulturbund orchestra between 1935 and 1941. Now living at the edge of the Arizona desert in Tucson, the elder Goldsmith shares his recollections of his tumultuous youth in a series of conversations with his son, Martin Goldsmith, who appears throughout the film but never on camera. Martin, known to American radio listeners as the long-time host of NPR’s “Performance Today” and the host of the PBS special “Classical Rewind,” used those conversations as the basis for his acclaimed book The Inextinguishable Symphony, which in turn inspired Winter Journey. Ostergaard weaves those conversations together with archival footage and ingenious green-screen recreations of actual events into a journey through time and space that leads inexorably to “the film’s gut-punch of a finale.” (HI) Dealing with themes of guilt, Jewish identity, the father/son dynamic, and the responsibilities of the Second Generation, Winter Journey is moving proof of William Faulkner’s timeless observation that “the past is never dead; it isn’t even past.”