Pavel, a young student living in Prague in 1942, hides a Jewish girl in his apartment building's attic. Amidst the brutality of the occupying German army, love blossoms between the two. He ...
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Pavel, a young student living in Prague in 1942, hides a Jewish girl in his apartment building's attic. Amidst the brutality of the occupying German army, love blossoms between the two. He is her only link to the outside world. Then the two are discovered by Pavel's mother, who forces the residents of the apartment building to decide whether Hana can remain.Written by
Fiona Kelleghan <email@example.com>
Jiri Weiss's 1960 film Romeo, Juliet and Darkness is a wholly convincing, tightly controlled account of the human costs of despotism. The story takes place against the background of the Nazi occupation of Prague, and more specifically the horrible repercussions visited upon the population after the assassination of Heydrich, the leading Nazi in Czechoslovakia. A young man, in his final year at school, takes in and shelters in the attic of his mother's house a Jewish girl of the same age, going to great pains both to conceal her presence and to find food for her. Weiss's direction is superb, with particularly good establishment of the atmosphere of the flats where most of the action occurs. Watching the move now, one almost feels one is present in the Prague of 1942, the movie being particularly effective at showing how routine life goes on under even the most harsh of political circumstances. The two young actors in the lead roles both give excellent and very moving performances. There are also a range of vividly-drawn characters in the background. At least two things make the film noteworthy, looking at it from today's perspective. First, the film is almost wholly free of any propagandistic elements, presumably quite an achievement given the time and place of its production. The film, with its emphasis on a humanistic depiction on the trials of ordinary people, points towards the Czech New Wave films which would appear five or six years later. Second, Weiss's direction is such that the film is simultaneously vivid and yet understated, the relative absence of histrionics making it all the more absorbing. The denouement is very powerful indeed, making the film (available on DVD in the UK) one that is very worthwhile seeking out. I bought the DVD not knowing what to expect; I ended up watching a masterpiece.
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