Based on the last novel written by Johannes Bobrowski (1917-1965), Levin's Mill dramatizes the cultural and ethnic tensions in western Prussia during the 1870s, a place where not only Germans and Poles were mixed together, but within those larger groups, Jews and Gypsies as well. The mix does not mean that prejudice was blessedly absent, and as the story unfolds, Johannes, a German miller (Erwin Geschonneck) has intentionally opened up the dam on a river one night, raising the water to flood levels downstream to destroy the boat-mill of his rival, a Jewish Pole named Levin (Christian Grashoff). Johannes is dead-sure his fellow Germans will never convict him of this treachery; after all, wasn't he just trying to rid the town of a prosperous Jew? And that is almost what happened. The ruined Jewish miller leaves for the Russian-dominated sector of (the future) Poland, but his misfortune was not so easily shrugged off by the townspeople. There were witnesses to what Johannes did that night, and their testimony leads to the disintegration of his reputation and as a consequence, affects him in the pocketbook as well. He bears the burden of what he has done until it becomes so heavy he is forced to pack up his misplaced nationalism and leave. The effects of this incident were felt not only by the protagonists on each side, but by the ordinary citizens as well. This film caused an upheaval when it was refused by the selection committee of the 1981 Berlin Film Festival.
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