There are plenty of movies dedicated to the atrocities that took place during World War II, but very few attempt to show the recovery and reconstruction afterwards. Rarer still are the films that portray these events from the German perspective. That is why the latest movie shown in the Foreign Film Series, “Das Wunder von Bern” (or “The Miracle of Bern”) packs such an emotional wallop; it shows the audience that even the country history views as the villain was human, and had its own share of struggles to overcome.
The film has two main interconnecting plot-lines. The first shows a German family struggling with the return of a father after an 11-year absence, during which he had been a prisoner of war. He painfully struggles with his return to normal life, and many conflicts arise between him and the children who have grown up without his presence. This is especially evident in his relationship with Matthias, the youngest, soccer-obsessed son, a son this father didn’t even know about.
Matthias serves as the link to the other plot-line, whose hero and father figure is Helmut Rahn, a member of the 1954 German soccer team that competed in the FIFA World Cup final. The team is considered to be a joke in the sporting community, but somehow – and this is where the “miracle” in the film’s title comes into play – they manage to overcome the unthinkable odds to win the World Cup.
The truly amazing thing about this movie is that it is based off of a true story. The German team did, by some stroke of fate, win the 1954 FIFA World Cup, which served to be the catalyst to boost the country’s economic recovery after WWII. The movie’s blend of lighthearted humor, drama and hold-your-breath soccer scenes is so perfect that it seems to be a miracle in and of itself.