Funny, dramatic and surprisingly poignant, Divided We Fall is one of the most oddly engaging stories about life under the Nazis in recent memory.
This Oscar-nominated Czech film — now playing in Vancouver theatres, and soon coming out on video — focuses on Horst (Jaroslav Dusek) and Josef (Bolek Polivka), two Czechoslovakians who work for a Jewish family. When the family is deported to Poland, Horst collaborates with the Nazis and embraces their anti-Semitism, while Josef grumpily tries to be as neutral as possible.
One night, one of the deported Jews returns. David (Csonger Kassai) has escaped from a concentration camp, and Josef and his wife, Marie (Anna Siskova), offer to hide him. This proves somewhat difficult, since Horst often visits their apartment, leading to a series of amusing near-misses and ironic cover-ups.
Directed by Jan Hrebejk from a script he co-wrote with Petr Jarchovsky, Divided We Fall is a fascinating mix of social farce, domestic drama and political tragedy. It also takes an intriguing turn toward religious allegory.
For reasons too complex to explain here, Marie tells the Nazis she is expecting a child, and to make good on her alibi, she has to become pregnant — but Josef is sterile. It thus falls to David to sleep with Marie and give her the “miracle child” she has always wanted (a ‘son of David,’ one could say). If, as Corrie Ten Boom said, a sin such as lying is permitted when lives are on the line, then perhaps this is justified, too. And like everything else in the film, this episode is handled with humour, compassion and hope.