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Made in 1963 this is an award winning film from director Zbynek Brynych who was more known for his TV work in his later life. This tells the story of the Terezin ghetto. The Jews there were allowed to run their own affairs up to a point but that came with the obligation to actively collaborate with their Nazi gaolers. Terezin was used as a marshalling yard for the transportation of Jews from all over Europe to what they were told was `resettlement' but was in fact death camps.

It opens with a propaganda film being made for the World to see just how great it was to be in a ghetto run by the Third Reich. We also get to meet a number of the people who are being held captive and those that will do whatever it takes to save their own skin. The news of the death camps has now reached them so many are under no illusions as to what beholds them at the end of a torturous journey in a cattle truck. They have also heard how close the Russians are and know that liberation can not be far away.

There are themes running throughout this too like the sounds of planes flying overhead. The frequency of these gets quicker as the film unfolds giving the feeling that the front is getting ever closer. The sound of the transport trains lonely whistle gets more frequent too though and starts to become more haunting than evocative by the end. There are also constant role calls and endless lists to be compiled.

There is a lot here that is food for thought but I felt what made it more essential is that this was made less than twenty years after the end of the war - for some of these actors this was not ancient history but events that happened during their lifetime. It is in Czeck and German with good subtitles - although not every piece of dialogue is translated. There is a fair smattering of other European languages too. In black and white and running to 92 minutes, this is a film that all film students should see; it is not a pleasant experience but it was never meant to be and there are moments of hope mixed in with the tragedy - absolutely recommended.
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1962 appears to be the year when the film industry shook off the war stupor and finally began to explore the pain. This film is similar to KAPO except made in Czech. Echoing the work of Arnost Lustig and Hannah Arendt the film explores complicity, destruction, resistance, sexual abandon, exploitation, sympathy and empathy. It shows how reality is carefully constructed and provides a lesson to the public relations or propaganda industry on how perception is managed.

The "Germans" are not one dimensional in their sadism, although the film does not flinch from those who have a complete and utter personality disorder - those volk who cannot visualise the human in the being. This appears to be uniform for those who were given rank and command and access to power for recompense for childhood insecurity. As a historical phenomenon this must have been the mass of those kids who grew up from 1914 onwards in Central Europe. The Jews meanwhile veer from acceptance, acquiescence, resistance and general disbelief about what is being done to them. The film hovers on the desire to maintain a pleasant facade at Thieresenstadt, the model camp shown to the Red Cross and the rest of the world. Here general decorum was kept intact and propaganda perceived as a virtue in maintaining the grand fiction - the resettlement programme rather than the eugenicist dream of eradication of populations. For those who shrug, I would check your IQ score - anyone who scored around 70 was deemed fair game after these people were disposed of.

National Socialist Germany - which was neither - was founded upon the myths promulgated within psychiatry around genetics, fitness and race. It was in essence the first psychiatric state founded upon enacting its central myths around demarcating populations.

Here in stark black and white the regime unfolds in a bureaucratic minutae with relentless roll calls and resounding callousness without sinking to the depravity of what the next step in the solution was.

It is a well acted and masterful film once again emanating from Eastern Europe frozen behind the iron curtain. Ironic that the best war films of the era were concocted in Czeck, Russia and Poland and that the worst were produced by the eventual victors. The irony of the paradise lost is not lost.
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on 17 March 2016
The Czech cinematography made this - as - some kind of Schindler list long time before Kennaly and Spielberg. The parallel between the actors in today Guantanamo and Abu Graib is un avoidable Exodus from Middle East for Re-settlement - the mental consumerism banality turns to empowerment over others, what is the cultural legacy what flourish in cyber-society, what pretends by cloaking itself into cacophonic legality while issue of Empowerment become fro individuals thanks to privacy laws hidden, Cyber internal editorship empower someone against someone else by algorithm of words - without human accountability to him- her - self. Fakedbook Fuhrer said.
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on 31 December 2015
Brynych can change the focal point of a film mid way - in this film there are changes of speed that are rare for the world of cinema. He also made three films in Germany in the 70's that are of interest (in a Chabrol meets Fernando Di Leo sort of way). The only director with two 'y's in his name? Very natural with cinema.
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