Sunday, 9 September 2012


“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” - C.S. Lewis

The last weekend we saw a very good film, which despite its “heavy” theme was quite uplifting and hopeful, ending in a very optimistic note. The other positive thing about it was that it was based on a true story, which was affirming in terms of the strength of the human spirit and the ability of human beings to overcome obstacles and rise up to challenging circumstances that would be seen by most to be desperate.

The film was Edward Zwick’s 2008 “Defiance” starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Alexa Davalos, George MacKay and Jamie Bell. The film was definitely something very different to Daniel Craig’s more familiar and publicised 007 role, and an affirmation that he is a good actor able to perform in a powerful and very demanding dramatic role. However, it is hard to fault any actor’s performance, with even minor characters being depicted in a powerful and believable way.

The film is set in Belorussia in 1941, in the midst of the Nazi invasion. The Jewish Bielski brothers manage to escape from the massacre orchestrated by the Nazis in their village where their parents were killed. They hide in the adjacent wild forest that they know well, and other runaway Jews soon join them. Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig), the eldest brother, assumes the leadership of the survivors and sets up a camp with tasks for everyone in the newly-founded community. However, his brother Zus Bielski (Liev Schreiber) wants to fight against the Germans and does not agree with Tuvia’s leadership. Zus decides to join the Soviet resistance fighters who believe that Jews do not fight. While Tuvia welcomes any survivor in his camp, which soon leads to the numbers of the forest dwellers swelling to many hundreds. The different ideologies and plans of action against the Nazis between the two brothers brings about a confrontation, until Zus finds that anti-Semitism among the Russian partisans is strong and vehement. Things come to a head when the Nazi forces become aware of the forest dwellers and decide to eliminate them.

Edward Zwick (of “Blood Diamond” fame) has created another thought-provoking film directing it in a sensitive and restrained manner, which still manages to evince beauty despite its often horrific and violent content. Even though the movie runs for 137 minutes, it managed to engage and captivate us and kept our interest up for its whole length. The cinematography was stunning and the direction faultless. Although the film does not glamourise the facts nor hide the “ugly” truth, it does introduce some cinematic elements and it does focus on some interpersonal relationships and the character development that one expects of a fiction-based movie.

It is a good film to watch and we would recommend it highly. It has a good balance of heavy hitting action and intense drama, and it is a bonus to know that these on-screen characters existed in real life and their courage and amazing actions were successful in saving the life of hundreds of people who would otherwise have been tortured and killed in Nazi concentration camps.

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