Movie Reviews

European Union Film Festival review: ‘Charlotte: A Royal at War’

By Travis WongMovies - 03 May 2012 8:30 AM

European Union Film Festival review: ‘Charlotte: A Royal at War’

'Charlotte: A Royal at War' follows in the tradition of another box office success from 2004, 'Heim ins reich – L’échec d‘une annexion', which looked at Nazi Germany’s annexation of the country. 

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Details: 17 May, 9.30pm

A documentary from Luxembourg that recalls last year’s Oscar winner The King’s Speech, ‘Charlotte: A Royal At War’ treads on similarly territory about a royal rising to inspire her countrymen, even if it depicts it in less dramatic fashion.

In this case, it’s Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg. She came to power after her elder sister abdicated the throne in 1919, gaining the support of the people with her charisma and grace.

At the onset of World War II, she fled the country to escape the invading Nazis, as the tiny country had little chance of putting up any resistance to the Germans.

Being a part of a royal family guaranteed nothing. Her younger sister Antonia was deported to a concentration camp, barely surviving the war.

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WWII poster to raise funds for Luxembourg

Desperate to make a difference, she travelled to London, and to boost the morale of her countrymen, she started a series of radio broadcasts to her homeland through the BBC.

She later travelled to the US, and formed a friendship with Franklin D Roosevelt, who was trying to bring America into the war. Charlotte became a symbol and a reminder of the ambitions of Hitler-led Germany, and eventually America was brought into the war.

Charlotte continued her broadcasts, and eventually the country was liberated at the end of WWII. While many of her countrymen had previously not been supportive of Luxembourg’s sovereignty, they were convinced that their country should maintain its independence after the war.

The feature length documentary combines eyewitness testimony with dramatic reconstructions, as well as previously unseen footage from archives.  The picture painted of Charlotte is glowing, but also humane; despite being a royal, she was caught up in the machinations of war, and could have been a victim of Hitler’s ambitions.

After the invasion, she was rendered stateless, a ruler without a country, and in a precarious position. Her radio broadcasts helped to maintain the morale of displaced Luxembourg citizens, reminding them that she was still there, and making them not forget that they existed.

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Undoubtedly, the documentary is pretty linear and lacks much narrative drive, but it does capture the struggles of Charlotte as she does what she can to free her country from the yoke of Germany.

The 22nd European Union Film Festival happens from 11 to 20 May at Golden Village VivoCity. Tickets available from 26 Apr 2012 at Golden Village box offices nationwide and on www.gv.com.sg.