Tag Archives: Holocaust movies

Speak No Evil


by George Wolf

In the opening minutes of Resistance, a young Jewish girl asks her parents, “Why do they hate us?”

Then, just before the end credits, stark onscreen text reminds us of the magnitude of Nazi atrocities, and just how much of that was inflicted on children.

And during the nearly two hours in between, writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz tells an incredible story you probably don’t know about an iconic figure you most likely do.

Legendary mime Marcel Marceau was born Marcel Mangel. And while taking a stage name is hardly unusual, Mangel’s motivation was: joining the French Resistance and helping save thousands of children orphaned by the Nazis in WWII.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Marceau, and it’s a perfect vehicle for his offbeat strengths as an actor. Though Eisenberg’s French accent is shaky (he’s not alone), he nails the layers most important to making Marceau’s astonishing arc an authentic one.

Early on, Marceau is afraid of his father’s reaction to his ambitions on the stage, and seems most interested in entertaining children as a way to impress the lovely Emma (Clemence Poesy).

Eisenberg may never be an action hero, but his delicate, appeasing nature is a valuable tool for Jakubowicz to subtly reinforce how the Nazi threat was (and still is?) underestimated. Marceau’s hardening edges are never overplayed by Eisenberg, just as Jakubowicz wisely steers clear of any overt, Life is Beautiful sentimentality between Marceau and the children he is trying to shield from the horrors of war.

Indeed, the film is at its most gripping when juxtaposing the touching and the profane. Gentle moments appear and are quickly countered, never betraying the ever-present threat often personified by the sadistic Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighofer). Marceau and Barbie’s face to face meeting – historically accurate or not – is played with fine cinematic tension, demonstrating a passion and assured vision often lacking in Jakubowicz’s 2016 feature debut, Hands of Stone.

Marceau ultimately gave his first major performance in front of thousands of WWII troops. And although framing his story around a speech from General George S. Patton (Ed Harris) seems a bit misplaced, it also feels born of the sincere desire to convey the depth of Marceau’s heroism.

Resistance is a film built with passion and sincerity, employing a story that will be new for most of us to deliver a timely reminder meant for all of us.

Hidden Figures

The Invisibles

by Rachel Willis

In 1943, the infamous Joseph Goebbels declared Berlin was “free of Jews.” However, 7000 Jewish residents remained in hiding in Germany’s capital. Director Claus Räfle brings this dark history to life with his docudrama, The Invisibles.

Focusing on the lives of four young Jewish men and women, Räfle showcases their struggles through a combination of dramatic reenactment and interviews.

The dramatic elements of the film play like any well-written, well-acted drama. The actors enliven the words of the survivors, whose interviews are interspersed throughout the film. Newsreel footage from the days of the war also help paint the picture for modern viewers.

It’s an interesting choice to retell the more dramatic elements of history through reenactments, but because of Räfle’s attention to detail and the actors’ commitment to the story, it works fairly well. Räfle understands how to balance the dramatic with the interviews,  frequently reminding us we’re watching a story about real people.

The strongest performance comes from Max Mauff, who portrays Cioma Schönhaus. By forging documents, Cioma manages to stay behind in Berlin when his parents are sent to a concentration camp. Because of his skills, soon friends ask for help with their own documents. His work gains the attentions of Dr. Franz Kaufmann, a member of the Third Reich, who assists Jewish men and women in escaping Germany., and he enlists Cioma’s help in creating fake passports and papers. Cioma’s work saves the lives of scores of other Jewish men and women.

Räfle tries to balance Cioma’s story with the stories from his other interviewees, Ruth Ardnt, Hanni Lévy and Eugen Friede, but he never quite manages to bring the same level of detail to their histories. Though Eugen participates in a resistance movement distributing leaflets to citizens, that fact almost feels like an afterthought. Ruth works in the house of a Nazi officer, who knows who she is, but the tension of such a situation is never fully explored.

In addition to the four survivors profiled, there are a number of men and women who assist in hiding Ruth, Hanni, Cioma, and Eugen. It’s hard to keep track of the names of those who risked their lives to do the right thing, which is unfortunate since their actions were critical in keeping people alive.

The Invisibles might have been better served by simply letting the survivors tell their stories in their own words, but even with the choice to dramatize the history, it’s a sensitive, emotional portrayal of one of the darkest times in human history.