Thanks to the book and now the movie, Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim will forever be known as Aimee and Jaguar, which were their nicknames for each other back in 1943, when Berlin was being bombed to smithereens. The wife of a Wehrmacht officer away at the front, Lilly was what the Nazis were fighting for: a blond, blue-eyed mother of four. As for Felice, she was what the Nazis were fighting against: a Jewish lesbian who managed, for a time, to go undetected right under the Gestapo's nose, this despite her fatal need for fun and adventure. Somehow, across the boundaries of race, class and gender, this Sapphic odd couple found each other, and Aimee & Jaguar is their story, told by Lilly in a 1994 book (written by Erica Fischer) and brought to the screen by German TV director Max Färberböck. And what a story it is--unique and yet, I suspect, one of thousands that were buried in the rubble of World War II. At first, we don't understand what Lilly and Felice could possibly see in each other. Lilly is a flighty, if gorgeous, hausfrau, a ditz. Whereas Felice is a sleek creature who could pounce at any moment, a predator who refuses to acknowledge that she herself is being preyed upon. Perhaps Lilly saw a way out of a stifling marriage. Perhaps Felice saw a good place to hide. Whatever it was, Aimée & Jaguar is smart enough to allow for the possibility that, especially during wartime, love is deaf, dumb and blind. Why else would Lilly and Felice risk everything--Felice by staying in Berlin, Lilly by harboring a Jew?
One of the movie's highlights is Felice's simple admission to Lilly, "Ich bin Jude." Another is their initial love-making, when Lilly literally trembles with long-suppressed passion. It's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of portraying these two than Juliane Köhler (Lilly) and Maria Schrader (Felice), who kept reminding me of Mia Farrow and Sigourney Weaver. The movie itself is a little threadbare in places, like big-budget television. And Färberböck directs like a TV guy handed his first film camera, whipping it this way and that. But he's also created a very intriguing version of war-torn Berlin, one in which the Weimar era, with its live-for-today-because-there-may-not-be-a-tomorrow atmosphere, lingers. Fifty years later, it must linger still for the 86-year-old Lilly, who continues to live there.