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In World War II Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia, a childless couple, Josef and Marie Cizek, can only watch while the Jewish family of their employers, the Wieners, are first removed from their own home to a spare room in their house by the Nazis, then deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp. Years later, young David Wiener, the sole surviving member of that family has managed to escape and make it to the Cizeks. Although fully aware of the extreme danger of harbouring a Jew in the Third Reich, the Cizek's can not permit themselves to leave David to certain death and agree to hide him. However, this decision leads to terrible danger of discovery by the Nazis and especially their friend and Nazi collaborator, Horst Prohazka, who is attracted to Marie. With desperate cleverness and luck, the Cizeks struggle to keep the secret, even when Horst begins to suspect. In doing so, they find themselves making unorthodox choices and learning about the true nature of the people around them. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Just saw this on BBC4 - extraordinary - it's the kind of achievement American (and British) screenwriters should practice for years to emulate. Robert McKee, see this film!
The writing, directing and acting are all superb, and in the service of a supremely human story beautifully constructed around timeless epic themes of man's inhumanity to man, war, and all the other big stuff. To separate these from the movie itself, though, would be to do it a great disservice.
The mix of laugh-out-loud humour, gripping thriller, and finally a well-earned and unsentimental tear-jerker of a last 15 minutes is the zenith of a movie-watching experience. "Divided We Fall" is very funny from the outset, but it doesn't take long for the filmmakers to skilfully tighten the knot with sudden character twists and brilliant writing early on. Once we're immersed in 1943 Czechoslovakia, we're not only rooting for the lead character Cizek, played immaculately by Bolek Polivka - a winning combination of contemporary earthy Brit character actor Philip Jackson and 20th century comedy genius Alistair Sim - we're feeling like we're there with him.
He and the ensemble cast play every beat of the story just right (there's even one moment midway through where the audience are maybe allowed to get a bit too far ahead of Polivka's character, but it's remedied by the performances). The visual flourishes, especially the effects of switching between film speeds and using a DV tape look, all enhance the narrative without intruding into it, and thus heighten the tension at unexpected moments. The costume and make-up designs bring the human stories to warm life; and set against war-torn 1940s backdrops, the production design could hardly go wrong.
A great treatment of a much depicted time and narrative that manages to make events feel fresh, real, scary, funny, dramatic, ultimately hugely moving...somehow many more people should get a chance, and be urged, to see this film.
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