A LOVE IN GERMANY" is "The Summer of '42" set in Nazi Germany. And while you know it's all going to turn out rather badly, you can't help but be seduced by star Hanna Schygulla.
The Polish actress is irresistibly sensual as the self-destructive Paulina Kropp, a German shopkeeper who has a flagrant affair with a much younger Polish prisoner-of-war, Stanislaw Zasada (Piotr Lysak, perfect in an oafish, adoring role).
Zasada is a pawn in local Nazi affairs and in Frau Kropp's life, just as Poland was in the greater power struggle then and now. Director Andrzej Wajda, always after the political parable, looks beyond Nazi atrocities to examine how evil establishes itself in everyday life. He opens on Frau Kropp's toddler contentedly licking his swastika lollipop just like any child with his reward for going to the dentist. Ordinary sins -- jealousy and lust -- grow well in the soil of corruption. And it is these commonplace failings that destroy Zasada and Frau Kropp.
Marie-Christine Barrault, as the wholly Germanic Maria Wyler, an envious neighbor, plots to take Frau Kropp's shop by reporting her illegal affair to the village commandant. She is admonished by her husband, nice for a Nazi, who declares that he doesn't want a wife who murders to get a shop.
Wajda's women are weak; his men are wise. Women use their wiles wrongly, viciously, even psychotically. Frau Kropp flaunts her affair before the villagers, a wanton inexplicably devoted to self-destruction and public confession. Kropp, who is finally jailed, has a pleasant, self-satisfied look on her face, free at last behind bars.
When "A Love in Germany" concentrates on Schygulla and her crisis, it is thoroughly absorbing. When it strays into political territory, it's pedantic. But with Wajda, strongly identified with Solidarity, politics are integral to his art.
A LOVE IN GERMANY (R) -- At the K.B. Janus. In German with subtitles.