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Gian Maria Volonté,
A Jewish ghetto in the east of Europe, 1944. By coincidence, Jakob Heym eavesdrops on a German radio broadcast announcing the Soviet Army is making slow by steady progress towards central Europe. In order to keep his companion in misfortune, Mischa, from risking his life for a few potatoes, he tells him what he heard and announces that he is in possession of a radio - in the ghetto a crime punishable by death. It doesn't take long for word of Jakob's secret to spread - suddenly, there is new hope and something to live for - and so Jakob finds himself in the uncomforting position of having to come up with more and more stories. Written by
This East German movie is a very unusual movie about the Holocaust because it focuses on life within the ghetto. However, the film seemed a bit sanitized in how the residents looked and how they were treated. Unlike some later films, some of the Jews in this film looked awfully well-fed and conditions didn't seem all that bad. The cattle car where the remaining Jews were placed seemed rather spacious and not all that bad either--even though in reality many died on the cars due to conditions. In addition, some of the German soldiers seemed pretty nice. Perhaps this might have been that the Soviet-dominated East Germans were more willing to talk about their sordid past but were still struggling with fully accepting it. Whatever is the case, this aspect of the film did surprise me a bit.
Now as for the rest of the film, it was marvelous and provided an odd insight into life in the ghettos. The acting was excellent and the film is very much worth seeing, though not nearly as compelling as THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET, SCHINDLER'S LIST or AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS. I have not seen the recent remake starring Robin Williams, so I can't really compare the two, but my inclination is almost always to go with the originals.
PS--The English captioning for this film is pretty poor. Instead of directly translating what is said, it's often summarized or even wrong. My knowledge of German isn't too bad, and several times what they said did not correspond at all to the captioning. You can't blame the film makers for this, but the company that released the film.
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