Spring of Life (2000)
By: Captain Red Eye on January 6, 2010  | 
Redemption (UK). All Regions, PAL. 1.66:1 (Non-anamorphic). German DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 106 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Milan Cieslar
Starring: Monika Hilmerová, Johanna Tesarová, Michal Sieczkowski, Vilma Cibulková
Screenplay: Vladimír Körner
Country: Czech Republic
External Links
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'What's more magnificent than a man with hair as gold as the sun and eyes as blue as the sky?'

It's 1939 and Nazi officials have descended on rural Czechoslovakia in search of suitable candidates for their Lebensborn program, in which any attractive maiden of suitable lineage is to be transported post-haste to the Isolde Sanatorium in order to become a human mattress for German officers. The statuesque and honey-blonde peasant-girl Grétl, who incidentally is quite the piece of Aryan tail I'd like to be involved in a breeding program with myself, is promptly spotted by a keen-eyed Reichsfuhrer and sent off to do her 'holy duty' in the name of the Eternal Germany.

The Nazi's hubris and self-deification is immediately evident. The swastika trinkets bestowed upon the girls are to be 'worn above all else', images of the Virgin Mary are routinely replaced with National Socialist regalia, and upon arriving at Isolde Grétl is advised to remove her crucifix on the grounds that 'we don't wear anything like that here'. The compound itself at first appears to be little more than a wintry girl's camp; there is ice skating, fencing and other assorted frivolities tossed in amidst the constant lectures on Social Darwinism and necessity of rearing a genetically untainted master race, or 'new nobility'. When the SS men arrive looking to do their duty for the Fatherland however, Grétl soon wishes she was back on the farm.

The Third Reich has proven a popular topic for Czech filmmakers of late, with titles such as Adolf Hitler Doesn't Like Disco, Divided We Fall, Money From Hitler and others approaching the subject with varying degrees of humour and pathos. A thoughtful and compelling character study set amidst the madness of Nazi racial ideologies, Spring of Life contains some stunning cinematography and a host of well-rounded supporting figures. The female chief physician is strictly from the Nurse Ratched school of doctor/patient interaction, and her behaviourist leanings ('it works on bears and dogs so it'll work with people too') are unyieldingly applied to her nubile charges. Local 'Polack' Leo, who has the unfortunate distinction of also being Jewish, has been reduced to the status of dogsbody despite the fact his family originally owned the grounds on which the sanatorium is located. And the assorted SS officers all look the business- say what you will about the Nazi's ethnic vilification and warmongering, they had the uniforms and iconography locked down like a mofo.

As my prior knowledge of distributor the Salvation Group extended only to their book of hardcore fetish photography Blood & Dishonour, I was expecting Spring of Life to be a tasteless free-for-all in which loads of boozed-up Nazis and ruddy-cheeked farm boys got bizzay with an endless succession of panting blonde wenches in the name of Deutschland über Alles. Well shut my mouth, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Though admittedly a disco-dancing Hitler would have leavened one or two of the slower sequences, Spring of Life is nonetheless a masterful effort from director Milan Cieslar, and the excellent bonus features add a welcome smattering of historical context. Heil Cieslar!
The 35mm print has been expertly transferred, albeit non-anamorphically, and though still containing the change of reel indicators the image is devoid of all but the rarest hint of grit or grain. Though taking place almost entirely in winter the film's imagery also manages to be both striking and varied, and both the grandiosity of nature and solemn pomp of Nazi ritual are flawlessly captured.
A Dolby Digital 2.0 in Czech, with English subtitles. Clarity is good, dialogue is nice and clear and the classical soundtrack is excellent also.
Extra Features
The principle bonus feature is an exclusive documentary featuring Michael Leapman, author of Witnesses to War and Master Race, entitled 'Children, Lebensborn and the Nazi Racial Ideal'. Enlightening and well-executed, this 33-minute offering also features some excellent historical stills and propaganda posters in addition to providing an interesting insight into the motivating factors behind Lebensborn.

Also on offer are a stills gallery and trailer for Spring of Life, trailers for three other Salvation flicks and a selection of further archive materials pertaining to the Lebensborn program.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Tasteful, picturesque and restrained, Spring of Life is, despite the lurid promise of its tagline, infinitely more concerned with characterisation and historical accuracy than with Nazisploitation. Director and cinematographer have succeeded in creating an eminently plausible wartime landscape in which racial pride permeates entirely, and where individual morality is subservient to the greater good of the nation. Hats off to Salvation for finally bestowing upon this decade-old film the treatment it deserves.

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