Angry Harvest (1985): Oscar Nominee WWII Drama from Agnieszka Holland

Federal Republic of Germany

Set during WWII, “Angry Harvest,” directed by Agnieszka Holland, stars the great actor Armin Mueller-Stahl as a Polish Catholic farmer who shelters a Jewish woman refugee.
“Angry Harvest” played at the New York Film Festival, launching a successful career for Holland, who later made the highly acclaimed “Europa, Europa,” “Olivier, Olivier,” and also American films.
Holland treats her intimate tale material as both a character study and a thriller (sort of cat and mouse game between a Catholic farmer and a Jewish woman who has escaped a train bound for the Nazi death camps.
When the story begins, Leon Wolny (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is a devout Catholic who lives in solitude and isolation, yearning for the company of a woman. Things change dramatically, when he meets Rosa Eckert (Elisabeth Trissenaar) as she’s trying to steal food from him.
Thrilled by her presence, and realizing that she has nowhere to go, Leon hides her in his cellar. During that time, the relationship goes through the motions of a savior man who is doing a humanistic favor, to a man holding a woman against her will, and finally as a man who has fallen in love; we are led to believe for the first time, despite his age.
A chamber piece for two, “Angry Harvest” is necessarily claustrophobic and verbose too. Both Leon and Rosa voice their strict religious beliefs and personal values systems, which spark intense debates.
At first, all we see are extreme, irreconcilable differences, but then gradually, loneliness, alienation, and desperation draw them together, encouraging them to get to know each other and forge a strong emotional bond.
Some perceive Holland’s film as a thriller of ideas (rather than emotions), which pits two extremely opposing individuals against each other in a battle of wits, sanity, and survival.
What elevates the film is the great acting by the leads, Mueller-Stahl and Trissenaar, who were familiar to the audience from their appearances in Rainer Werner Fassbinder pictures. Mueller-Stahl later made some international and Hollywood films, such as “Shine,” for which he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
Oscar Nominations: 1
Best Foreign Language
Oscar Context
The winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was “The Official Story,” a political melodrama from Argentina, in a strong, competitive contest that included “Colonel Redl” from Hungary, “Three Man and a Cradle” from France, and “When Father Was Away for Business” from Yugoslavia.