Inside 'The Poet' (appallingly retitled 'Hearts of war') there may be a decent film trying to get out, but it's buried so deep that one is forced to wonder. Jack Crystal's impossible script smothers any kind of reality, any kind of honesty... through the provision of one cliché after another until the film becomes utterly un-watchable and unintentionally laughable.
The main plot device of 'The Poet' centres around Wehrmacht Officer Oscar Koenig (Johnathan Scarfe), a bog standard 'Good German' stereotype who falls in love with a hopelessly sweet Rabbi's daughter, Rachel (Nina Dobrev), itself a Hollywood stereotype. Unfortunately, for Oskar, his squeeze is already set to marry her unbelievably noble Jewish fiancé Bernard (Zachary Bennett), who even when he finds out that his potential missus has done the dirty on him behind his back (with a German of all things), still decides to marry Rachel and bring up the kid. Oskar helps Rachel and Bernard escape and asks Bernard to "look after her" as he watches the pair stumble off to an uncertain future.
It really is as ridiculous as it sounds.
The problems with the 'The Poet' are too numerous to mention here and apparent from the beginning. Oskar and Rachel's instant love sparks off in a snowstorm and is so unrealistic that the whole movie is set up for a fall at the start. Love at first sight may exist, but this is the stuff of Hollywood and the bad side of Hollywood at that. It's difficult to imagine anyone taking it seriously, or at least seriously enough to buy into the basic premise of the film. In fairness, it's in part a problem with the budget in the fact that there just isn't enough running time devoted to showing the development of the love affair and the scope of the historic setting is way beyond the films capacity. On top of this, the characters of `The Poet' are all simple cardboard. Just enough to resemble people, but nowhere near any kind of realistic personalities. Presented here are the usual German every Nazi's, the aforementioned 'Good German' who's good because he's a "poet" and of course the Hollywood copyrighted depiction of "the Jews", who are nothing but honest, noble and shining lights of humanity. Nobody on offer here is a reflection of real living people and that inevitably lets the story down with a crashing, disastrous bang.
Not only are the characters unrealistic, but they are placed in unrealistic situations by Crystal's nonsensical script. Oskar's father, a German General wholeheartedly committed to the Nazi ideal in a way only Hollywood can come up with, also has a wife cheating "relationship" with Rachel. But, only because the script demands it. To everyone else, it's stupid and insulting.
In short, the second half of the film is defined by a "supreme tragic event", which I won't reveal, and Rachel and Bernard are put in an uncompromising position involving Soviet partisans and Oskar's German soldiers. This leads to the film's utterly incredible conclusion and thankfully, the end credits.
'The Poet' possibly could have been a good film, but only if the script had been more steadily considered and if the producers had abandoned stereotypical clichés in favour of thinking 'outside the box', if I can use that irritating term. The idea is ok, but why does Rachel have to be Jewish? She could have been Polish or even Russian and why does Oskar have to be the only German the audience can identify with?
There is no pleasure in watching 'The Poet', it's a difficult viewing, not because it challenges the viewer in any uncomfortable way, but because it makes the viewer wonder why the hell they are sitting there watching the whole farce unfold, when there are so many other things to do...like washing the dishes, or mowing the lawn.