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Well crafted but unfortunately forgotten WWII film
This little film received Academy Award nominations for art direction and score, and I have to wonder how it escaped a nomination for cinematography as well, because this story does not have a great deal of action in it. Instead, much is said through the vivid score and the masterful cinematography that renders the shadows that the Nazis cast often more menacing that the Nazis themselves.
Not commercially available as far as I know, this is a film that deserves rediscovery. The story opens on a celebration between two friends and partners in San Francisco. Martin Schulz (Paul Lukas) is returning to his home country of Germany along with his wife and four of his five sons. His partner, Max Eisenstein (Morris Carnovsky), will meanwhile keep their art gallery going in San Francisco along with Martin's son, Heinrich. Max's daughter, Griselle, is also going to Germany to seek out a career as an actress. Heinrich and Griselle are in love, but have decided to delay marriage so that Griselle can pursue her career.
Once in Germany, Martin gets swept up into the building Nazi movement when he is befriended and flattered by the silver-tongued Baron von Friesche, who eventually convinces him that he should cut off all communication with his old friend Max because he is Jewish. When the Nazis come after Max's daughter Griselle when they learn she is Jewish, Martin stands by and does nothing to help her, allowing his old friend's daughter to perish at their hands and on his doorstep. However, a society such as the Nazi's that is built on purity of opinion and constant suspicion can sometimes be cleverly manipulated to be an instrument of revenge. Thus, by means of a very simple plan executed by someone in the U.S., Martin soon finds himself isolated and under suspicion of espionage - a prisoner in his own home as well of his own imagination of what will come next.
I highly recommend this film as it is still relevant today, especially from a psychological standpoint of how totalitarian movements start out by preying on the desperation of the many and the self-importance of a few.
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