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