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Divided We Fall

Nominated for a ‘Best Foreign Film’ Oscar, director Jan Hrebejk’s acclaimed film is set in a small Czech town occupied by German forces during the last years of the Second World War. Vaclav Cižek (Boleslav Polivka) agrees to hide David, a Jewish man and former neighbour recently escaped from a concentration camp, thus putting the lives of his wife and neighbours at risk. When David fathers a child by Cižek’s wife, he not only solves the couple’s fertility problems but provides legal protection against taking a Nazi lodger and the certainty of discovery.
A black comedy with a vein of almost endless irony, the film’s apparently humanist title, which translates literally as ‘we must help one another’, is in fact the motto of a friend who sees reality in terms of collaboration with the Nazi invaders. In order to hide David, Cižek himself has to accommodate the Nazis and is accused of being a collaborator. The film constructs a complex interplay of characters, in which common cause and humanity can be rapidly dissolved or reversed by the course of political events. Based on a true story, this third collaboration between writer Petr Jarchovský and director Hrebejk (Cosy Dens) is full of believable characters and absurd situations. As the filmmakers put it: ‘In this story based on real events, lives are saved for a wide variety of (sometimes controversial) reasons, and all the main characters manage to survive. Here, heroism and collaboration, generosity and cowardice overlap, making it difficult, if not impossible, to pass categorical judgements.’
Czech Republic, 2000. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 117 mins.

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