Contrary to its playfully innocent title, Mousie is a period piece that captures the unnerving and unpredictable experience of being a target in Nazi Germany.
In this film, the unfortunate target is a seven-year-old Roma girl named Hélène (Sasha Watson Lobo) who spends her time hidden in a Weimar club in Berlin. Embodying the characteristics of a mouse, Hélène likes to sneak out of her caretaker Katharina’s (CJ Johnson) sight and silently wander around the chaos that ensues backstage during shows, which ultimately puts her in the middle of a predicament. Not only does Lobo capture this mouse-like persona, but she also does a great job of portraying the innocence and obliviousness of a child whose reality is too grim to grasp.
As seen in most period pieces, the film sticks to a muted color palette with pops of red that emphasize the propaganda and nationalism of the Nazi Era. Dominated by the eerie high pitched howls of the violin, Mousie’s score (Jack Arnold) perfectly encompasses the unsettling events that unfold throughout the film. The editing (Duncan Moir) artfully cuts together terrible moments from the past and present to create intensely uncomfortable scenes. These almost disturbing scenes are brought to life by the acting of Johnson and Jack Bennett, who plays a Nazi soldier named Otto. There is also an interesting contrast between the attention-grabbing act of performing on stage and Hélène’s main objective of staying hidden. This juxtaposition creates an internal battle in Hélène and also makes the film stand out from the plethora of other WWII films.
While the film has all the captivating glitz and glam of a cabaret, it’s the conclusion that evokes the most perplexed – yet allured reaction. In a similar direction that the film Florida Project takes, Mousie takes the child POV approach to the next level. Many shots are in Hélène’s perspective, hinting at the fact that the story is being told by her. The film slowly brings the POV to literal territories, telling the story in the way that a seven-year-old would.
Mousie sheds light on a topic that should never be forgotten and brings a bit of brightness to its dark and cruel origins by adding a childlike optimism to its conclusion.