7.6/10
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9 user 14 critic

Prisoner of Paradise (2002)

Documentary about Holocaust victim Kurt Gerron.

Writer:

Malcolm Clarke
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ian Holm ... Narrator (voice)
Robert Lantz Robert Lantz ... Self (as Robby Lantz)
Eleonore Hertzberg Eleonore Hertzberg ... Self
Lone Koppel Lone Koppel ... Self (as Lone Koppel de Moos)
Renée Saint-Cyr ... Self
Kees Brusse ... Self
Silvia Grohs Martin Silvia Grohs Martin ... Self
Susanne Thaler Susanne Thaler ... Self
Hans Margules Hans Margules ... Self
Margit Silberfeld Margit Silberfeld ... Self
Jan Fischer Jan Fischer ... Self
Tommy Mandl Tommy Mandl ... Self
Paul Sandfort Paul Sandfort ... Self
Coco Schumann Coco Schumann ... Self
Ela Weissberger Ela Weissberger ... Self
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Storyline

This documentary chronicles the life of Kurt Gerron, a German Jew who rose to prominence as an actor and director in prewar Germany and was eventually coerced by the Nazis into making a film portraying the concentration camp called Terezin (or Theresienstadt) seem like an ideal community of relocated Jews. A well-crafted documentary adeptly narrated by actor Ian Holm, "Prisoner of Paradise" is a fresh reminder that we should never forget what happened. Written by Anonymous

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PG | See all certifications »
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Edited from Variety (1925) See more »

User Reviews

 
Unique, sad, and pregnant with ideas.
18 April 2004 | by myschrecSee all my reviews

Any documentary about a successful Berlin Cabaret performer, film actor and film director is the exciting and creative world of pre-WWII Germany -- who performed with Weill, Brecht, Marlene Dietrich, etc -- would be in itself unique and fascinating. This documentary certainly fulfills that expectation. In addition, it is the sad, tragic story of how a great artist was hounded and dehumanized by the Nazis. Finally, it is the incredible story of how the Nazis coerced Kurt Gerron to direct one of its most outrageous propaganda films to try to show the world that the Terezin Concentration Camp was a paradise for Jews sent to live in the "east." The reality was that Terezin was a squalid, overcrowded transit camp -- where many died from disease -- and tens of thousands were transported to Auschwitz (and other camps) to be murdered. In the end, Gerron was coerced to face the ethical dilemna that the Nazis posed to all their prisoners: "As long as you help us, we have a reason to keep you alive -- so ... How soon do you want to die?"

Did Gerron make the film because he was selfishly trying to save himself and his family? If so ... so what? Wouldn't you have done that? On the other hand, it is even more tragic to think that Gerron probably knew that the Nazis would never let him live -- and that this was his last chance to work -- to be creative -- to be a "macher" -- to have a modicum of control over his life. Like all great artists, he did not want to produce anything less than his best. Certainly, many of the "actors" in the film were forced to pretend to be happy. On the other hand, when you see children eating bread and butter joyfully -- and you know that they would not have such food were it not for this film -- you can imagine that perhaps they were not pretending to enjoy the food. Similarly, the chorale group, the children's musical, and the symphony (performing "Study for Strings," written by Pavel Haas while he was incarcerated in Terezin) were not "pretending." They were enthusiastically displaying their love for their art and their pride of accomplishment. The Nazis should be vilified for their treatment of these artists. But the artists have nothing to be ashamed of.

The film raises more questions than it answers. And some of the answers it suggests may not be convincing. But that is another reason why this film is deeply moving and valuable.

This is an extremely well-made documentary -- excellently preserving much archival film footage. Ian Holm is an outstanding narrator. And the moments we see Gerron's acting and hear his singing are likely to encourage you to want to rent several of his films. Nominated for the 2003 Oscar -- amongst Spellbound, Winged Migration and Bowling for Columbine -- this film is further evidence that today's documentary film makers are among the best creative artists in the cinema.


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Country:

USA | Canada | Germany | UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 April 2011 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Illusion See more »

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