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Divided We Fall

Writer-director Jan Hrebejk's Divided We Fall (Musíme si pomáhat) (2000) concerns the Nazi occupation of a Czechoslovakian town during World War II and specifically how it affects two families, but despite the rather grim subject matter, Hrebejk invests his tale with a lot of warmth and good-natured humor to uphold his humanist themes. Bolek Polívka stars as Josef Cizek, a pragmatic middle-aged man who shuns the war that's going on right outside his apartment, and thus draws inward with his wife Marie (Anna Sisková), who herself is emotionally withdrawn over her inability to have children. But when David Wiener (Csongor Kassai), the son of a wealthy Jewish industrialist and Josef's former employer, escapes from a Polish death camp and secretly returns to the town, Josef realizes he has little choice but to hide the young man in his and Marie's flat. The only problem is that family friend Horst Prohaska (Jaroslav Dusek), an ethnic German and Nazi collaborator, frequently visits their home, lecturing on the superiority of the German military while hoping to fabricate an affair with the timid Marie. Spanning more than two years, Divided We Fall adopts a message that still has resonance today — namely, that peaceful occupation by a foreign power is only possible via consent of the occupied. Early prologues in the film, as the Wiener family are led away from their villa, reveal a curious optimism that merely masks the general despair, and Josef's naive hope that ignoring the war will make it go away — or at least keep it out of his home — is equally problematic. It is through David that Josef realizes the futility of willful ignorance, even though the young man's arrival often puts Josef at odds with Marie, who wants to treat him as a houseguest while her husband demands the fugitive Jew remain hidden in the pantry. Meanwhile, woven into the tapestry is the Nazi sympathizer Horst, part-Czech, part-German, and sheer opportunist who represents the worst elements of all sides, though even he — like everyone — has the opportunity to redeem himself in the end. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of Divided We Fall features a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround in the original Czech and with digital English subtitles. Features include a trailer gallery and a filmography on director Jan Hrebejk. Keep-case.
—JJB



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