was raised in the Orthodox tradition, but was ordained as Berlin’s first female
rabbi, recognizing no inherent contradiction between the two. Her historic
career, tragically cut short by the National Socialists, is profiled in Diana
Groó’s Regina, which screens
this week during the 2014 Washington Jewish Film Festival.
Jonas grew up in turn-of-the-century Berlin’s desperately poor Eastern European
immigrant neighborhood—the ghetto before the ghetto, so it is not hard to
surmise her ultimate fate. However, Jonas’s formative years were rather
extraordinary, because her Orthodox father insisted she receive an education,
alongside her brother. At an early age, Jonas showed an aptitude for religious instruction,
which she would pursue for the rest of her life.
years of study and struggle, Jonas was finally ordained, with the support of
both reformists and select Orthodox mentors. Nonetheless, her accomplishment
proved quite controversial, nearly splitting Berlin’s Jewish community.
Ironically, the National Socialists inadvertently hastened her acceptance, by
making rabbis so ominously scarce in the city.
During grim times, Jonas’s sermons were a source of strength and
consolation to many, but she would soon share the fate of so many of her fellow
just over an hour, Regina is a relatively
short film, but regrettably, Jonas lived a relatively short life. Since there is only one surviving photo of
her, Groó mostly relies on archival footage of the period that conveys a strong
sense of time and place. While
necessarily limiting, she often gives the visuals a stylistic tweak, zooming
in, slowing down, and hazing over images for an effect not unlike Guy Maddin’s
films. In truth, it mostly works quite well. Yet, it is the powerful minimalist
guitar score composed and performed by Dániel Kardos (somewhat reminiscent of
Gary Lucas’s original silent film projects) that makes the film so distinctive.
is a well intentioned film that features sensitive
voice-overs (most notably from Rachel Weisz). It is tasteful and to-the-point,
but it is the haunting photo of Jonas and Kardos’ eerie soundtrack that will
make the greatest impression on the viewer’s consciousness. Respectfully recommended, Regina screens this Wednesday (3/5) and
Thursday (3/6) as part of the Washington Jewish Film Festival.
Labels: Documentary, Regina Jonas, WJFF '14