86 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny film, serious message
This is an extraordinarily funny film which, while it doesn't quite reach the heights of Hasek's "Good Soldier Svejk", views war from the perspective of the little man, the naïve participant caught up and swept along by the currents of history and blind obedience of those around him. While the humour does achieve moments of high farce, it is usually kept as an...
Published on 16 Sep 2005 by Budge Burgess
3.0 out of 5 stars Small Film Dealing with the Darkest Subject Matter with Humor
EUROPA, EUROPA, 1990. This rare World War II holocaust comedy/drama tells an unlikely and ironic tale. Salomon Perel, a handsome German Jewish boy of 13, finds himself in Poland, separated from his family, in the early days of WWII. He is taken into a Soviet orphanage, where he becomes a member of the Komsomol, the Soviet youth organization. He is then captured by the...
Published 2 months ago by Stephanie De Pue
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86 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny film, serious message,
This is an extraordinarily funny film which, while it doesn't quite reach the heights of Hasek's "Good Soldier Svejk", views war from the perspective of the little man, the naïve participant caught up and swept along by the currents of history and blind obedience of those around him. While the humour does achieve moments of high farce, it is usually kept as an undercurrent, as an ironic theme, as a vital celebration of the human spirit.
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 ... and an ironic commentary on masculinity, for Solomon's identity is ultimately bound up in his circumcised member - it's exposure can never be a triumph of macho dominance, but a betrayal of his vulnerability. Throughout the film, Solomon does as he is told - he obeys his parents, obeys the Russians, obeys the Germans. He struggles to obey his conscience, but he is young, he is human, and he is scared out of his wits. In the face of certain death, survival becomes the driving force. Ultimately, Solly obeys the instinct to survive.
The film is delivered as a series of episodes, each culminating in a cliff-hanger situation, each situation resolved in more and more farcical fashion. Like the heroine tied to the railway tracks, salvation always seems to arrive in the knick of time ... divine intervention with a wry grin! That one Jewish teenager could survive in these circumstances is incredible, suggests the film, and exposes the myth of German efficiency. Life can be farcical (in retrospect) and far from 'efficient'.
Primo Levi writes with extraordinary humanity and honesty about what it was like to survive Auschwitz. "Europa Europa" offers another spin on this. Survival is never heroic, is never one dimensional. Solly survives by sheer terror, ingenuity, and luck, pure luck. The Holocaust is too often offered up as simple, gross statistics. Solly, here, is a terrified teenager - a single, solitary individual against whom history and Europe seem to have conspired. You can sense the feeling of guilt, the "why me" questioning of the survivor, but the answer is in the film. Luck.
A very funny film with a very serious message, it will doubtless outrage some who see it. But it is a film which should make you laugh: if Solly is a pawn in history, his story is a triumph not simply of luck and survival, but of an indomitable human spirit. Silence laughter and you silence love, understanding, tolerance, and forgiveness, for humour is at the root of the human spirit. Excellent, excellent film.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing from start to finish,
This must be the most truly awesome film I have seen. First of all, I couldn't believe it could be true until I saw Solomon Perel's name on the credits as himself as there just seemed to be too many coincidences to be believable. But then again, life is full of coincidences (my own included), so on we go.
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. A tragedy too often displayed in black and white is depicted in breathtaking colour.
The only gripes I did have were with an unbelievable story, too much comic sex (the scene on the train) and a feeling that it swung from bathos to high farce in the space of two minutes. However this relates to the fact that I didn't realise it was a true story, and thus what is realistic in a movie plot often isn't realistic in life, which is far too complex for most screenplay writers to really master.
In short, if you are wanting a realistic, beautiful and bittersweet film about the war - watch this one.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful true story that shows the determination of the human over the inhuman,
this is simply one of the all time best films I've ever seen. Whilst not being able to add much that has been said by other people here, this film shows you the strength of the human spirit over the absurd and often cruel forces of history. Even if it were not a true story, it would be an extremely good film but being aware all along that it is a true story, makes the pathos and the humour all the more personal. The cruelties of history - and especially of this period of history -so often just shows the horror of the effects on peoples - it is so rare to see a story where the human spirit has been maintained in the very worst grip of cruelty. I can have nothing but praise for this film -with the acting of the main charter by Marco Hofschneider - being superb - but also the story of one individual who was able to maintain their spirit (and sanity!) whilst being thrown into sureal situations by fate into the very heart of the very worst forms of evil - and surviving!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ww2 dvd europa europa,
A cracking true story ww2 dvd i have loads a nice one to add to my collection it looks like it has been transfered streight from video to dvd but thats ok its still a great film i would recomend as the story seems far fethed but is its true very quick delivery thanks amazon.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why use fiction when history is so good!,
This is a truly great piece of cinema - I have many foreign films and this is one of the best - very good story and very well done - would watch again and again - What this poor 16 year old had to endure - and what a story that came out of it - takes you straight to Europe of the 1940's and the suffering and predudices prevalent at the time - Recommend it highly! Don't miss.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Europa Europa,
The true story of Salomon Perel who escaped the persecution of the Jews by becoming a member of the Nazi party.
This is a fascinating film, beautifully acted and filmed, with a star turn from Marco Hofschneider. Though not without touches of humour, there are some tense moments indeed as Salomon comes dangerously close to being discovered.
The disc quality is good without being outstanding and I suspect that it has not been remastered for the DVD issue. The picture is not anamorphic either but widescreen letterbox. Subtitles are good and clear. Recommended with slight reservations.
3.0 out of 5 stars Small Film Dealing with the Darkest Subject Matter with Humor,
EUROPA, EUROPA, 1990. This rare World War II holocaust comedy/drama tells an unlikely and ironic tale. Salomon Perel, a handsome German Jewish boy of 13, finds himself in Poland, separated from his family, in the early days of WWII. He is taken into a Soviet orphanage, where he becomes a member of the Komsomol, the Soviet youth organization. He is then captured by the Germans. He changes his name, poses as a German orphan, is valued for his translating skills and then is declared to have single-handedly captured a nest of Soviet soldiers. He is thereafter considered a 'war hero' and eventually made a Hitler Youth. He tries merely to survive the war: it seems inevitable that he will be discovered. Especially when a gay German officer and a rabidly anti-Semitic young girlfriend seem much too close to the goods. Improbabilities and happenstance are the basis of this history, yet it is true, based upon Perel's autobiography.
Perel plays himself as an older man; Marco Hofschneider turns in remarkable work as the young protagonist. The Warsaw-born Agnieszka Holland, who trained in Prague, directed. The French actress Julie Delphy, (BEFORE SUNSET, BEFORE SUNRISE, BEFORE MIDNIGHT, TWO DAYS IN PARIS), 30ish at the time, plays 15 year old Leni, who wants Perel to father her Aryan child, while she wishes she could cut the throats of Jews. This is a small film, dealing with the darkest of subject matter, which might well be unbearable, were it not lightened by flashes of - still dark-toned--humor. You will know if it is for you.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A film that makes you think,
Unlike so many of todays Hollywood "Action Blockbusters" where you spend the fim watching big bangs, good over evil etc etc and where the male protagonist ALWAYS gets it on with his sexy female sidekick, films like this from the contenent really make you think...they are films with depth.
This film is no exception, and followes the true life story of one Jew in Nazi Germany, who in order to save himself from the concentration camps pretends to be German and gets involved in things like the Hitler Youth and so on...a really good film.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chameleon of the isms,
Salomon Perel's war story is all the more unsettling for being true.Directed by the Polish Jewish director, Agnieszka Holland in 1991.Salomon(Solly)Perel(Marco Hofschneider) is a young German Jew,whose father is a Polish Jewish shop-keeper living in Germany with his family.There is a Pogrom against Jews on Kristallnacht,Solly and his brother Isaak,flee east into Poland.His circumcision is shown at the start of the film and will be the defining event in his identity.Solly gets split up from his brother and ends up in a Russian orphanage in Grodno,where he learns to be a fervent young Stalinist, infatuated by his tutor.He becomes a model Komsomol and learns to speak Russian.He spouts indoctrination like `Religion is the opium of the masses'.
With the German invasion of Russia the school is uprooted and moves east,he gets separated and becomes a young German to the German soldiers,an interpreter who usefully speaks Russian for his unit,known as Joseph(Jupp)Peters, a favourite of the German soldiers.His ethnicity becomes known to a homosexual German soldier but he keeps it secret.He becomes an accidental hero after all his unit are killed and he surrenders to the Russians,only to find out that it's the Russians surrendering to him,with the German army behind him.The Commanding officer wants to adopt him and wants to send his `son' to one of the best German military schools,an elite youth academy.He falls for lovely,Jew-hating Aryan lass,Leni(Julie Delphy).But by this point the effort of hiding behind so many masks, not to mention hiding the most tangible physical evidence of his identity,is beginning to take its toll.
The film covers the absurdity of adapting to every changing event and yet the need to to survive at all costs. Ironies bite hard and occasional farcical moments add an unsettling edge to Perel's fortunes,e.g. in the class about Aryan racial superiority,when Solly is judged as not pure Aryan,but `Aryan enough'.Showing up the pseudo-science of racism.He also makes friends where he can,even with Germans who are anti-semitic.Perel is ambivalent towards all these people,Communist or Nazi,his chameleon-like skills bring him among.The film does not evade the horrors,but it alludes to the Holocaust only obliquely.There is no time to reflect or moments of conscience. Perel's brief but chilling glimpse of the Lodz ghetto is all the grimmer for being set against his picaresque, spirited progress.The real Solly is shown at the end as he is now in Israel,singing a song.This film covers a lot of history with a light touch.
5.0 out of 5 stars Good,
excellent! I was very happy with this purchase as it done exactly what I wanted it to and it was in perfect condition.
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Europa Europa (Ws Dub Sub) [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] by Agnieszka Holland (DVD - 2003)