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In the face of horror, holocaust, and the fifty million lives swept away in the European war of 1939-1945, laughter is not only still possible, humour is not only still possible, it is obligatory, for to have killed the ability to laugh and smile would have been to have destroyed the human spirit and allowed darkness to triumph. "Europa Europa" looks at war with an almost childlike vision, but a childlike vision refracted by years of adult distance and the ability to perceive the ridiculous, the risible, the raucous even in the midst of nightmare.
Based on a true story, apparently, "Europa Europa" follows the travails of teenage Solomon Perel as he flees a pogrom in his native Germany, returns to the family's Polish roots, only to witness the 1939 invasion. He flees to the Russian side of the dismembered country, but, when the Germans turn their attention to the destruction of Stalin, Solly finds himself captured and pressed into service as an interpreter.
He quickly becomes a front-line mascot and is shipped off back to Germany, to attend an exclusive school for the Hitler Youth and children of the Party faithful. Throughout the entire film he struggles to hide or deny his Jewish roots ... and, more particularly, to conceal the fact that he has been circumcised.
A film about duty and obedience, a film about identity and the struggle to preserve it ...Read more ›
The period detail and location filming is fantastic. Having lived in Lodz for a while, I could recognise the very streets and tram stops where it was filmed - something especially poignant as I lived on the site of the old ghetto, thus any film of the Lodz ghetto instantly brings back my own memories of that beautiful but neglected city (worth a visit). Secondly, the idea of having each character speaking in the language in which they would have spoken in real life was a master-stroke - too many films portray stereotypes of foreigners with silly accents (depending on which country is making the film for the exact stereotypes used), thus heightening my interest in the film tenfold (as someone who speaks Polish and Russian, although not German) when one was able to rest one's eyes from reading the subtitles rather than watching the action.
The characters are treated sensitively, with even the Germans inspiring sympathy, particularly Leni and her mother having to cope with the pressures of society and the need for compassion. War - and even politics in our society - does terrible things to people's values, forcing compromises that are often painful to make. Solek's survival depends on compromising his own values, and hinges ultimately on sheer luck, coincidence - or divine intervention? Not even Gerd or the Nazi schoolmaster can be wholly evil, and Hitler himself is portrayed as hiding his own compromises in Solek's dreams.Read more ›