Monday, November 22, 2004

Musime si pomahat (Divided We Fall) - major spoilers

Czech movie, 2000. Full of ugly people doing ugly things, but I like it.

The movie is set during WW2, and the main characters are Josef and Marie, a middle-aged couple who mostly sit at home and bitch about the occupation. Josef has a friend, Horst, who is a collaborator, wants Josef to work for the Germans with them, and is in love with Marie. At some point Josef and Marie reluctantly start hiding a Jew, David - they wouldn't want to get involved, but then David is not just any Jew but their old acquaintance. Horst figures that out and starts behaving in a way that is both protective and threatening at the same time. In order to avoid suspicion Josef does take the German job, after which the neighbors begin crossing the street when they see him. Franta, the father of the family across the street, is in the resistance and despises Josef, but himself tries to call Germans when he sees an escaped Jew.

The movie has no heroes - everyone is either normal or bad, and the line between the two is not quite clear. It gets quite intense towards the end, when the liberation comes and suddenly all the characters realize that now they better make up a coherent story for the liberators together, or else they are all up the shit creek without a paddle. They are awfully touching while they are at it.

The movie is quite unusual in that it offers the bleakest view of the liberation I'd ever seen. Before the liberation Josef hopes for it, and after it everyone (everyone who is still alive, that is) is glad to be liberated, but the process itself is shown as pure atrocity. The images of the liberation are the images of killing and beating up German and collaborator civilians and suchlike - a fairly powerful image is Franta's wife who raises a little girl towards the face of Josef's former boss and tells her to "hit him for Alik" (the family dog that some Germans had shot). The general spirit is "hey, let's kill them all!".

"Musime si pomahat" really means "we must help each other", and in the texts it is sometimes translated as "united we stand" and sometimes as "divided we fall". "We" here does not mean any political entity - in the world of this movie, political loyalties shift and shatter, but personal relationships somehow manage to hold, although with difficulty.

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