Sep 30, 2008

5th Oct 2008 ; Screening of Divided We Fall

"You wouldn't believe what
abnormal times do to normal people."

Divided We Fall
A Film by Jan Hřebejk
Year :2000
Czech / German with English sub titles
Run time :122 minutes
5th Oct 2008 ; 5.45 pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
Call : 9443039630

Too many films show their characters in terms of black and white, and World War II films doubly so. So when a WWII film shows its characters in shades of gray, it deserves double the praise. Divided We Fall, the new film from director Jan Hrebejk, does just that, painting a semi-satirical portrait of collaboration and resistance in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

Film's hero — if he can be called that — is Josef Cízek, (Bolek Polívka) a former supply manager with hang-dog features and a bum leg. His union with longtime wife Marie (Anna Sisková) is a fairly happy one: Even though they're childless and he usually sleeps on the couch, they try to make the best of life under the German jackboot, neither collaborating nor resisting.

The same can't be said for Josef's former co-worker Horst (Jaroslav Dusek), who joins the Nazi party and confiscates property from deported Jews. An obnoxious but ultimately pathetic character who's a dead ringer for Heinrich Himmler, Horst stops by the Cízeks' house way too often, obstensily to give the unemployed Josef handouts, but really to lust after Marie.

One of the unnamed town's few Jews, David has recently escaped from a concentration camp, and returns to his hometown to collect a cache of jewels and seek shelter. Since Nazis will shoot the entire neighborhood of anyone caught sheltering Jews, the fugitive has a hard time finding shelter; even a member of the Resistance tries to turn him in.

Despite the film's dire setting, Hrebejk treats much of Divided We Fall as a low-key farce, focusing on laughable, screwball-like situations (David having to quickly hide whenever anybody knocks on his door) and making light of award social situations (a scary SS Sturmbahnfüer decides Josef is his best new friend). Unlike Life Is Beautiful, however, writer Petr Jarchovsky never lets events slip into silliness, successfully bringing the understated humor of his source novel to the screen.

“ The director manages to create a surreal tale and a philosophical apologue out of a historical tragedy. The director increases the suspense and the tension by resorting to cinematic tricks as low-frame shots, fuzzy focus, super-imposition ofimages, expressionistic shading, etc. and comic, slapstick-like scenes accompanied by circus music.”

Hrebejk's film, which was nominated for an Oscar in 2000, uses large doses of gallows humour to explore the limits of opportunism in abnormal times. The characters in Divided We Fall are reluctant heroes, affable collaborators, and putative resistance fighters. This a deeply humane and affecting movie, surprisingly gentle in spite of its black-comic tinge, and without the slightest hint of schmaltz

"It is an absurdist drama in which everyone has a role," says Hrebejk, the director of this film , who is part of the "velvet generation" of talented Czech film-makers to have come to light since 1989.

Jan Hřebejk

Jan Hřebejk (born June 27, 1967 in Prague) is a Czech film director. He studied together with his frequent scriptwriter Petr Jarchovský at middle school and, from 1987 to 1991, at FAMU, an arts college in Prague for film and television, studying screenplay and dramaturgy.

A Quick Chat With Jan Hrebejk - Click here to read

During his FAMU studies, Hřebejk directed and produced two short films, Co všechno chcete vědět o sexu a bojíte se to prožít ("Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Experience", 1988) and L.P. 1948 – 1989 to a script by his classmate Petr Zelenka. His professional directorial debut was a short film for Czech TV, Nedělejte nic, pokud k tomu nemáte vážný důvod ("Don't do anything, if you don't have good reason", 1991). His films caught the attention of viewers and critics, and entered student film festivals.

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