Dr. Braun is forbidden to practice medicine because he's a Jew living in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. He's old, seems resigned about the fate of the Jews, and even works in the Department of Confiscation of Jewish Property. One day a neighbor asks him to assist a wounded political fugitive. Dr. Braun reluctantly operates to remove the bullet, but warns that plenty of morphine will soon be needed in order to keep the man from screaming when he awakes, which would attract unwanted attention. After some soul searching, Dr. Braun decides to redeem himself and reclaim his identify as a person and doctor by continuing to provide assistance. His search for the scarce morphine takes him on a nightmarish journey which includes a brothel where local women are forced to be prostitutes for German soldiers, a bar where the locals try to drown their misery in booze and dancing, and a Jewish insane asylum with a high suicide rate. Meanwhile, in a world where there is constant propaganda instructing... Written by
A prophecy in Zechariah 6: 1-3 mentions red horses, black horses, white horses, and grey horses riding out into the world with no real mention of their riders. But in Revelation 6:2-7 in a description of the Apocalypse the riders are given some characteristics: the white horse has a rider with a bow who "went out conquering and to conquer"; the rider of the red horse takes peace from the earth and is given a great sword; the rider on the black horse has a balance and illustrates the calamitous rise in prices of scarce and necessary food; and the rider of the pale horse's name is Death.
Any type of war engenders cruelties. But when hope is displaced by fear, survival is surely threatened. As a fellow doctor tells Dr. Braun, in search of morphine to abate the pain of a wounded man on whom he has operated "We have up to 20 Jewish suicides a day - we manage to save most of them." Certainly a society that has placards proliferating everywhere admonishing "Inform promptly and accurately and insure your own safety," along with the 44811 informer number to call would not give much cause for hope. But Dr. Braun does not seem to give up hope completely - even when all is dark he says "A man is as he thinks - you can't change that." And yet Dr. Braun is assailed by fear also. More than once we hear martial music without seeing a band and Dr. Braun also sees a man with some sort of van who is there one moment and gone the next. Do we see what we fear most? It's hard to tell.
I found the musical score very intriguing - starting off before the opening credits was a brass fanfare, merging into flutes and then saxophones (and/or other reed instruments) and then back to brass and flutes throughout the opening credit sequences against a backdrop of massed notices on walls. The succession of one type of instrument being replaced by another was continued throughout the film.
I was limited to what the different wall placards were saying by occasional subtitles. It would have been interesting to know if the placards dealt with more than just informing. There was one word seen repeatedly - it seemed to start out "PYSA" or "PYHLA" or perhaps "PYKASRA" - the font type made it difficult to decipher . . . and my Czech is rather minimal, ah no . ..
The film music ends much as it began with brass playing to images of trains, then flute and then brass with images of cars then more flutes followed by piano with views of crowds and then ending with the brass section again.
"Death's a trifle if it's not my own."
But Dr. Braun carries on as best he can - "A man is as he thinks - you can't change that."
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