Top critical review
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Dull and inaccurate.
on 30 November 2013
I wasn't impressed with this film. The plot is a simple one about occupants of a Jewish ghetto in 1944 convincing themselves that Jakob is following the westward advance of the Soviet Red Army with a secret radio which he doesn't have. I presume the film isn't set in the Warsaw ghetto as there's no depiction or even mention of the 1943 Warsaw Uprising. Jakob denies he has a radio at first but then he starts to invent reports once he realises the supposed radio is giving people hope of an end to the war. As a side plot, Jakob is hiding a young girl who escaped a transport train that was passing by.
The film just dragged along, although I did stick it out to the end. The one thing I wasn't impressed with was that much of the production was very inaccurate and it really didn't convey the misery and horror of a Jewish ghetto. This was an opportunity missed. For example, all occupants of the ghettos were starving yet all the actors were obviously well-fed and healthy! People were even depicted cooking and sitting down to meals! Surely more effort could have been taken with depicting the starvation. Even bodies being loaded onto carts were plump! Everyone in the film was living in rooms lit by electric lights and with functioning power points and clean water, yet by 1944 electricity and water supplies had been cut to all the ghettos.
The intense Luftwaffe activity of the retreating Germans was depicted by just three of the standard cheap German/Japanese stand-ins of T-6 Texan/Harvard trainers painted in Luftwaffe colours which just droned slowly overhead once in formation. The German soldiers and SS guards are all stereotyped as bumbling, short-sighted comic oafs who are shown either kicking or beating Jews or still pulling up their trousers as they emerge from the latrine.
At the end of the film the ghetto is liquidated and the occupants loaded into cattle wagons for transport to a nearby death camp. The train is then shown being stopped by Red Army tanks and infantry, thereby saving the Jews on board. However, by the time the Red Army had advanced across Poland and further west rail transports to those areas had long been stopped and all the camps except Majdenuk had been evacuated and destroyed. The tanks were also late-1950s T-55s and not the Red Army's ubiquitous T-34s of WW2 - of which there are still plenty around and there certainly were when the film was made in 1999.
That's quite a list but it shows the scale of the inaccuracies which spoil this film. Not only does the film fail to convey the real horrors of the ghetto but it's another example of history being re-written by film producers. The problem with that of course is that people who don't know the real facts watch the film and then think that was actually what happened! It's a shame the opportunity was missed to depict the real horrors of a Jewish ghetto and to represent the real events a little more accurately.
I can't recommend this film. It's very dull, inaccurate and I didn't enjoy it at all.