Divided We Fall
Life and death. Josef (Polivka) strolls through the post-war rubble.
dir Jan Hrebejk
scr Petr Jarchovsky
with Boleslav Polivka, Anna Siskova, Csongor Kassai, Jaroslav Dusek, Jiri Pecha, Simona Stasova, Martin Huba, Jiri Kodet, Vladimir Marek, Richard Tesarik, Krystof Hanzlik, Anicka Jarchovska
release US 8.Jun.01; UK 31.May.02
00/Czech 1h55

4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Nominated for the foreign film Oscar for 2000, this superb Czech drama uses black comedy and a tricky story structure to give us wonderfully honest glimpse of the Nazi occupation. Josef and Marie (Polivka and Siskova) are a upstanding couple in their town, but everyone is on edge with the Nazis around. And soon Josef and Marie have more reason than most to be nervous: They are hiding thier old friend David (Kassai), a Jewish concentration camp escapee. And their nerves are frayed even more by their nosey collaborator friend Horst (Dusek). To deflect suspicion, Josef takes a job with Horst working for the Germans. But he's going to have to take an even more drastic, unthinkable action to get the Germans off his back forever.

Hrebejk and Jarchovsky's bright storytelling never undercuts the life-or-death tone. Rather, it makes the film fascinating and vivid, never falling into other WWII movie traps. There's a real blast of life here that keeps us thoroughly engaged with the story and characters, as well as such rarely touched-upon themes as taking care of those around us. But even more powerful is the complex examination of cowardice and heroism--and where the two are indistinguishable. At times, every character is both brave and terrified, and the performances are fantastic--especially Dusek's mercurial Horst ... funny and terrifying, villainous and generous. The clever script weaves these characters together in such a marvellous way that it nearly takes our breath away at the end. Without ever being simplistic or obvious, it ties up all the loose ends brilliantly to give us both a powerfully effective drama and a remarkably honest look at life in wartime.
adult themes and situations cert PG 20.Feb.02

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... "I rented this after reading a Shadows review. I love WWII films and the heroics of ordinary people. I hesitate now to watch war movies because I have seen so many films, that I don't want to see another war movie, but this one is very different. Having only spoken to survivors of the camps and the occupation, I could only imagine the perverse ways people had to live in order to survive. I found that the movie moved along unexpected lines, but not impossible to believe in such times as those. May we never have to live so cleverly a plotline to save our neighbors or ourselves." --Linda, South Miami, 10.Jun.02
© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall