In the Presence of Mine Enemies (TV Movie 1997) Poster

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Well made and thought provoking
flipside-612 September 2005
I enjoyed this movie and I'm surprised I didn't hear more about it. Set in Poland in 1942 with it's main characters living in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto. Housed in terrible conditions a society of Jewish Poles live a fearful existence under the rule of their Nazi oppressors. The main character of the story is the Rabi Adam Heller who lives with his 19 year old daughter trying to do what he can to comfort and care-for his dying people. The characters in this movie are well developed and the acting is believable. It shows the different emotional responses of an oppressed society whose entire population is dying off from starvation, disease, and by the hand of their captors. On one hand you have a pacifist Rabi whose faith in God is stretched almost to the breaking point, and on the other side a younger generation who believes in an eye for an eye and wishes to shed German blood for the thousands of Jewish lives lost. While this movie depicts the darkest period in mankind to date, it's more about the people themselves then the actual horrors. While it lets you know that terrible acts are occurring it doesn't morbidly display the terrible events scene by scene. It's a movie about people living in the face of terrible tragedy trying to hold on to faith in both God and in humanity itself. If you are interested in World War II and like thought provoking dramas -- then this is a movie for you. It's one that I won't be soon forgetting.
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Lacks a punch
bob the moo17 December 2001
In the weeks before the Warsaw uprising of Jews in 1942, a Rabbi struggles to keep true to his faith in the face of violence all around him. With his son becoming increasingly angry, his daughter a favourite of the local Captain and a guilt-ridden sergeant tensions increase in the Ghetto.

This is set around a terrible time in history, it should therefore have the horrific intensity of the period - you shouldn't be able to tear your eyes away from the screen. However it's not that captivating. The story is still terrible, but it's not totally mesmerising. The characters are generally quite well written - the Germans being the weakest link, although some of the Jews are too 'Jewish' if you know what I mean. Not that they're unbelievable - it's just that some of the actors are clearly forcing the actions and accent a bit.

Armin Mueller-Stahl is excellent as the Rabbi, as is Don McKellar as Paul. However McKellar is not allowed to do anything other than be angry whereas Mueller-Stahl is allowed a full range of emotions. Charles Dance gives a sub-Ralph Fiennes performance as the German Captain but doesn't have much to do. Chad Lowe (he of famous brother) as the guilt-ridden Sergeant Lott is OK but is too obvious for my liking - would a German sergeant really have shown his mercy so clearly all the time like that? I'd have preferred if he'd hidden his feelings in front of superiors and been even more angst ridden by his double life.

It's a fascinating story. But it's a little too simplistic here and some performances are not complicated enough to deal with such a situation (Mueller-Stahl excluded). Overall it's a good film but it just lacks something in it's performances, shallow scripting and TVM directing.
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The Unsung Hero of the Movie World
cabrit_sans_cor18 August 2000
For nights after watching this movie, I found it difficult to sleep. The suffering of the many innocent victims of the holocaust as portrayed in this movie haunted me deeply.

This movie tells the moving story of the wretched Rabbi Heller who's heart refuses to accept the sheer magnitude of the atrocities. He has a son, Paul, who has spent time in a concentration camp, turning him into a bitter and resentful young man, and his young daughter, Rachel, who will suffer horribly in the hands of the Nazis.

Yet there is a glimmer of hope in the darkness...the Nazis, evil as they may be, are also human. The last, thin thread of humanity that remains in them is manifested in Sergeant Lott (in a particularly powerful performance by Chad Lowe), who is torn between obeying the orders of his captain and following what he really believes to be right.

But this movie is not in the least cliched. It is an accurate account of the holocaust, so realistic it will give you cold chills with its beautifully written screenplay, stunning settings, and a gorgeous soundtrack that sets the mood for this trip back in time to WW2.

If there is only one movie you will watch, this is it. 'In the Presence of Mine Enemies' is truly the unsung hero of the movie world.
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One long punch to the gut
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews10 June 2012
Rabbi Adam Heller(Armin Mueller-Stahl, proving once again that he is an incredible actor, as a stronger role than I'm used to seeing him in... in general the performances in this are great) fights to keep the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 from erupting into a violent uprising(he never goes further than verbal provocation, by pointing out reality), and to maintain his own and his family's sanity and faith, in the face of the daily ritual of the Captain of the Nazis(who, as most of his kinsmen, is a contemptible human being) Richter(Charles Dance, insidious as he was in Last Action Hero), of personally choosing a handful of Jews to drive away on a truck(you can guess where to). When the man of the cloth sees the return of his son, he finds him unrecognizable, spewing hateful rhetoric in response to what he's experienced in the army. And thus, moral questions are raised. Is it OK to be vicious in response to the ugliness of others? Is any group all saints or only sinners? The discussion between parent and offspring is compelling throughout. And this does bring in one German troop who is questioning what they're doing, to further add nuance. This really captures the horror of the Holocaust, without showing much of anything directly. Almost everything is hinted at. You hear something in the distance(such as the screams of those shot down in the street, amongst the hail of automatic gunfire), for example. There are unfortunately flaws with this. The pacing is bad. Not counting the end credits, this is 90 minutes long. And it feels no less than two hours. Part of it is that the story sometimes stands still(while they delve into more of the facts of the situation, at least one of which doesn't lead to a payoff), and one plot thread is established early on, and then abandoned until it's needed for the compelling conclusion. There is a consistent thick tension and a lot of disturbing content, and brief graphic bloody violence in this. I recommend this to everyone who has ever even briefly considered watching any movie on the terrors of World War II. 7/10
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Highly Offensive
coolbluegreen4 June 2006
Sure, this is what we need, a story about a nice Nazi. This movie is revolting on every level. This film pretends to ask questions about morality, etc., but what it gives us is an absolutely unbelievable situation where you see, in a horrifying scene, a Jew choosing Nazi life over Jewish life -- and this is supposed to be deep. If you want to address these questions, and you can, you do not create absolutely unbelievable characters in an absolutely offensive and unbelievable film set during the Holocaust! Oh, it also has the obligatory sexual violence that movies of this ilk always have. Gotta decry your sexual violence and have it, too, don't you know. This kind of film attempts to mitigate the horror that was the Holocaust. People who don't know a lot about the Holocause might see it and say, "Well, it wasn't so bad, there were good Nazis who would help." The important thing about that time in history is that, no, there weren't. If you were in the Warsaw ghetto, you sure weren't going to find a friend among the Nazis. If you want to know about the ghetto, do some real research. Start with Emmanual Ringelblum's diaries. Stay far, far away from this dreck.
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