Located in the northeastern section of Berlin, covering 100-plus acres and home to the remains of more than 100,000 German Jews, the Weissensee Cemetery is the largest Judaic burial ground in Europe. As Britta Wauer's documentary on this resting place makes clear, however, the site is more than just a graveyard; for many, it's a living monument to Jewish heritage, pride and resistance to cultural annihilation. Workers and relatives of the dead attest to the cemetery's symbolic importance, and anecdotes from several folks, including a family living in an apartment within Weissensee, offer personal perspectives. But it's Wauer's emphasis on the landmark's representative qualities throughout history that offers the most compelling case for the spot's significance. Soldiers who fought for the Fatherland in WWI are interred there; so are those who were killed in Nazi concentration camps and suffered at the hands of the Stasi.
As a micro-to-macro tour of Germany's fraught relationship with its Jewish citizens, In Heaven Underground couldn't be more connective; as a straight doc, its aesthetic choices couldn't be more confusing. What made Wauer think that a contemplative portrait of a cemetery required bombastic symphonies blaring over almost every scene? Or that the attempts at whimsy wouldn't make the film's serious moments seem less somber so much as undermine them completely? Her methods of memorialization are questionable, even if the fact that this site deserves such reverential treatment isn't.
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