Sunday, August 14, 2011

Divided We Fall

There is something about films made about the Nazi reign that attracts me. Divided We Fall is one such film. It is a 2000 Czech film by Jan Hřebejk. Not a usual critical Nazi movie, Divided We Fall, presents the comic side of things. Josef and Mari save their boss's son, the Jew David Wiener even though their neighbor Franta refuses to help him and calls the Nazi authorities. This same Franta spits on the wall when he sees Josef make merry with Nazi officials so as to avoid suspicion. He ironically becomes the representative of the Resistance when Soviet forces invade Czechoslovakia. It is he who calls Josef a traitor when he arrives to a Soviet official to get hold of a doctor for his pregnant wife. 

Horst, a Czech who has collaborated with the Germans, brings gifts to the house. He is interested in Marie and even tries to force her once, but in the end, he is the one who becomes her doctor. The Soviets have captured all the Germans and their supporters. Even the doctor is dead. So Josef saves Horst among all those captured, saying he is the only doctor there. The wife is extremely horrified when she sees Horst becoming her doctor even though he tried to rape her once. But it happens, the husband pleads with the wife to keep shut. Horst is saved because he protects the family from the Nazis by not giving away the fact that they are in fact hiding a Jew in their house.                                           

Tense situations are also brought out in the end when the stupidity of power changes are shown. A change of power only necessitates a change of the master and not the system. This is why, while in the first half of the movie, Josef had to hide David to save his family, in the later half too, he is about to be killed because he cannot produce David to prove his "hatred" of the Nazis. Truly comic. As a viewer you are left wondering whether an innocent and kind man as Josef will be shot because of some idiot despot, who is too engaged in bureaucracies to even judge the worth of a life. 

Like the Nazi official who proudly showed that the value of one Nazi is equal to a 100 Jew lives, the Soviet official, takes out his gun, because "anybody could have been branded a Jew to escape the proceedings against Nazism". Director Jan Hřebejk shows the irrationality behind war through this master stroke.

The film is full of grey shades. The husband cannot have a child. But the wife says she is pregnant to keep a Nazi officer from taking shelter in their house (Courtesy: Horst). The husband realizes the gravity of the problem and decides that the wife has to become pregnant somehow. Devout Marie refuses to sleep with another man, and Jew David is all too awestruck to sleep with Marie. He even tries to leave the room but Josef, the husband forces both of them into the same room and shuts it behind him. As the lights go dark behind him, one sees the pain in his eyes. Truly, desperate times call for desperate measures. 

As is the case with wartime movies, the camera plays as important a role as the script. Unity is the motto of the film. Throughout the movie we see, Nazi forces use the saying, "United We Stand". It's corollary, "Divided We Fall" then stands to unite the oppressed at a time of crisis. It is especially symbolic when at the end, Horst delivers the baby and every one, Nazi, Russian, Jew, Slav, Czech crowd the room and Horst says, "Our baby has been born". This in short, is the message of the film. 

Life thrives in the midst of all death and destruction. The final scene in the movie is that of Josef with his new born baby in a cradle walking amidst the ruins of his city. The Nazi official who lost his youngest son (the child had tried to run from battlefield and was shot by German officers themselves. This is why the Nazi official wanted to stay in Josef-Marie's house unknowing of the fact that they were hiding a Jew) is seen injured. On the paths of the destruction, Josef sees the faces of all those who died, right from the young boy to the many Jews. 

The name Josef-Marie is also symbolic. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus Christ into this world when death and destruction was prevailing everywhere. Jesus was not Joseph's son by blood but he was brought up by him. Similarly here, the baby girl is not Josef's daughter by blood, but she is connected with the whole community by a much deeper bond. 

She symbolizes life, hope, optimism; she is the light at the end of a dark tunnel. May be sometimes, your race is not important. May be sometimes, punishing the guilty is not important. May be sometimes, the name of the father is not important. May be, sometimes what you need is Forgiveness. A little respite, a little letting go... is all you need to stay united.. and to dream of a better future. 

For civilizations tormented by violent deaths, only revenge is not a solution. You need something to look forward too. The baby brings in this hope in  Jan Hřebejk's Divided We Fall

PS: This film is extremely contemporary in our present strife ridden scenario. The film shows how extremes nullify each other only to leave pout moderation. The "You are with us, or against us" philosophy can only bring death and destruction; we can only move forward if we understand the importance of really being together

PPS- Happy 64TH Independence Day.


Subhrashis Adhikari said...

i would love to see that movie...happy independence day..


Trisha said...

Please do.. it's a great movie.. something everybody should see. :)