Projections - Movie Reviews

Divided We Fall

Divided We Fall

Divided We Fall is Jan Hrebejk's hugely ingratiating film which is far more than a typical World War II genre picture.  Set in the time when Jews were deported from Central Europe, this Oscar nominee for best foreign film from Czechoslovakia is an emotional roller coaster that becomes more harrowing as it displays surprising nuances from true anecdotes.

The dynamism of Hrebejk comes from the ardent veracity which he uses to film a thought provoking tale about the transformation from the mundane to a perilous courage which makes this provocative piece stand tall with extraordinary verve.

Wife Marie (Anna Siskova) and husband Josef Cizek (Boleslav Polivka) are going crazy from the effect of wartime volatility as this childless couple continue to deal with Josef's sterility.

By chance, Josef bumps into a young Jew, Csonger Kassai's David Weiner, whose family was deported a while back.  A recent escapee of a concentration camp, David is the only one now living, and Josef takes sympathy on him by keeping him in a pantry at his home.

Gravitating in tension with the introduction of the German collaborator, Horst, Josef finds work with this old co-worker trying to divert the German authorities.  And he often arrives without warning and is wanting of a very cute blonde, Marie.  Desperation mounts after Horst is rejected by Marie and plans to put a German supervisor into Marie and Josef's home is countered by a pretend pregnancy turning real in order make that room a nursery.

David becomes an important part to the couple's commitment to themselves and their choice to hide him.  Marie has a better head on her shoulders than Josef, and Horst and Josef are compelled to make some difficult decisions that are life threatening.

The characters have a quicksilver demeanor and that initially raises somewhat low expectations.  Marie shifts from passivity to clever con artist and the likable Josef acts on his outrage.  Jaroslav Dudek presents Horst as a striking, dark figure who fascinates as a potential Hemingway hero in unexpected fashion.

Working with creative cinematographer Jan Malir, Hrebejk underlines the tightness of space at the Cizek's residence and later the camera adopts the point of view of an unnerved bystander when the Germans initiate an attack.  The dirge-like Jewish songs compare well with the sloshing polkas from the persecutors.

Divided We Fall is a riveting reflection on how the motivations of fortitude come to fruition from moments of fear and goodness rising out of the most infertile areas.  And it can also show a sense of humor in the most wretched conditions.  This is evident in Horst's showing how to portray the "loyal look" to the Nazis to keep him from appearing as a traitor.  And when Horst is under the influence of alcohol and hastily goes to Marie's house, the result of a loving gesture unabashedly  surreptitious before a blanket is pulled up.

Hrebejk's achievement in exploring deeper into situations surrounding perhaps the most disturbing time in world history comes in surprising small moments that finally deliver poignancy and humor in unusual ways from the un-likeliest of sorts.

Divided We Fall

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