In my book, a fascinating summer movie, based on true events, is just the thing to wake up sleepy brains. Here’s a suspense film that will have your family on the edge of their seats, available through NetFlix for home rental: “Night Crossing”, chronicling the 1979 escape of two families from East Germany.
We had never heard of the 1982 Disney film starring John Hurt, Jane Alexander and Beau Bridges, but would highly recommend it. In a very simple and straightforward way, our kids got an idea of the food shortages, the snoopy neighbors who kept an eye on everyone’s movements, the secret police, and the need to be careful of one’s words and associations. They saw film clips of the Berlin Wall, the border setting and what lies between the 3-mile zone between East and West Germany. They heard the Strelzyk and Wetzel families’ struggles between wanting to be free, and knowing that it was almost certain death to attempt to flee.
Instead, it’s a movie made for families. It depicts how husbands and wives, children and grandparents each think of themselves and of others, and the difficult decisions each must face. The film is filled with suspense, disappointment, and elation, emotionally-wringing at times, yet not a tear-jerker at all.
It is a story of triumph, and human spirit, and the power to believe in something better, against all hopes. (I’m trying not to give away the plot line, but in a small way, it mirrored the tension of say, the Von Trapp family in “The Sound of Music”, trying to escape the Nazis in the middle of the night during their much-earlier time period. This is the Stasi, and a long-entrenched, repressive way of life, yet some elements remain the same.)
Nowadays, when every movie needs to be loud, and uber-action-packed, the slow grind of daily lives pushing back and daring to dream in a restrictive environment speaks volumes. This time, slow and steady wins the race.
They don’t make movies like this anymore, capable of holding the whole family’s attention, as well as highlighting a very real slice of history from not that long ago.
————Tags: "Crossing by Night" film, 1979 escape of two families from East Germany, decent family film, East and West German human-interest movie, presenting history to children through film, story of triumph over the East German secret police