Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5  
Divided We Fall (Musíme si Poméhat) (2002)
PG

"You wouldn't believe what abnormal times can do to normal people," says Josef Cizek (Polívka) in this absurd comedy/drama set in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation.

And he's right. Taking in Jewish refugee David (Kassai), Josef and his wife Marie (Sisková) become an unlikely, and rather unwilling, pair of saviours.

Not only must they keep their old neighbour hidden in their larder, but they have to deflect suspicion from their actions.

So, despite being opposed to the invading Nazis, Josef takes a job with Hitler-worshipping Horst (Dusek). But when Horst tries to seduce Marie and she tells him she's pregnant, they need to find a baby quickly. Only problem is, Josef's firing blanks, so their Jewish guest will have to fill in for him. Literally.

Jan Hrebejk's Holocaust comedy did brisk business in his native Czech Republic, where it was one of the most successful films of 2000. It's also been an unexpected success in America, where its story of a reluctant hero and well worn 'evil will triumph if good people do nothing' message obviously struck a chord.

Yet, while it's an entertaining little comedy which manages not to turn its characters into one-dimensional symbols of 'good' or 'evil', the weightiness of its subject matter frequently eludes its grasp.

The story of this reluctant hero seems little more than a feelgood ploy to alleviate Czech national guilt about not doing enough to save the "undesirables" who were rounded up by the invading Nazis.

By turning its fascists into buffoons and re-imagining the Holocaust as an absurd comedy, "Divided We Fall" consistently diminishes the historical reality of a situation in which hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered.

Whatever the film makers might want us to leave the auditorium thinking, surely the rescue of just one Jewish refugee can't outweigh the reality of genocide?

In Czech with English subtitles.

End Credits

Director: Jan Hrebejk

Writer: Jan Hrebejk, Petr Jarchovský

Stars: Bolek Polívka, Csongor Kassai, Jaroslav Dusek, Anna Sisková, Jirí Pecha, Simona Stasová, Jirí Kodet

Genre: Comedy, Drama, World Cinema

Length: 122 minutes

Cinema: 31 May 2002

Country: Czech Republic

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