Week of December 25, 2002

Divided We Fall. Jan Hrebejk. In Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, an out-of-work salesman (Bolek Polivka) and his wife (Anna Siskova) take the huge risk of hiding a Jew (Csongor Kassai), the son of his former employer, in a hidden room behind a closet. To divert suspicions about his loyalties and to protect his guest, the salesman takes a job working with the Nazis, thus making himself an outcast among his patriotic neighbors. In this deservedly Oscar-nominated film, director Hrebejk amazingly has come up with a new take on the Nazi roundup of Jews and the Gentiles who risked everything to resist it. He walks the fine line between tragedy and farce without ever tipping into tastelessness, and he has forged a film in which viewers are cajoled into a more forgiving point of view -- one that may be too forgiving for some. Were it not for the gravity of the setting, the story could just as easily be a comedy -- with everybody playacting and doors opening and shutting and the repercussions of lies multiplying geometrically -- as a drama. And, remarkably, the director has managed to bring out the comedy in ways that only heighten the tension. Shown Sunday, December 29, at the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center. Admission is free. For information, call 314-432-0020. (AK)
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