In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “This is a perspective of the war and of concentration camps that I don’t think I have ever seen depicted before.”
The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
“You think the Americans will come and save you?”
World War II and everything that comes with it have inspired probably thousands of movies at this point. The History Channel is basically the World War II Channel and interest in the subject seems to be as strong as ever. I think that’s because it’s the kind of story that is almost stranger than fiction. Adolf Hitler is a villain that would seem too over the top an implausible if he was a work of fiction, while Churchill and FDR have become these larger than life figures that seem too noble to have ever actually existed in real life. Yet there they all are, in our history books. The Holocaust is also something that is so evil, so atrocious, so impossible to comprehend, that there could be a million movies made about it, and the full impact will never be felt by people who didn’t live through it. Which is why movies like Naked Among Wolves are still so effective and so important.
In 1943, German Jew Hans Pippig (Florian Stetter) is arrested along with his father for spreading Bolshevik propaganda and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. While his elderly and frail father succumbs to the harsh conditions and dies almost immediately, Pippig is taken under the wing of some comrades and taught the ways of survival in the camp.
Cut to two years later and allied victory is all but assured. The Russians and Americans and making their across Germany from opposite directions and it’s only a matter of time before the camp is liberated. The prisoners know this, the German SS guards know this, but that in no way means freedom is assured. If the Germans kill the remaining prisoners, they will be hunted down and tried for their crimes. On the other hand, the SS commanders have heard stories of the Americans leaving German soldiers to be lynched by the newly freed prisoners. So letting their captives live isn’t the obvious choice either.
The prisoners have stockpiled a small cache of weapons and developed a plan to attack their captors when the time is right. But getting that time right is a delicate balance and the leaders of the resistance must remain undetected until the Americans arrive. Which becomes even more delicate when a new arrival’s suitcase is revealed to contain a hidden boy. Now the prisoner’s must weigh up the protection and survival on one young boy, against the liberation of 50,000 long suffering captives.
This is a perspective of the war and of concentration camps that I don’t think I have ever seen depicted before. After the cut to 1945, titles constantly remind the viewer how many days are left until the camp will be liberated. But these reminders never do anything to relieve the tension. In fact, it’s the opposite. As the prisoners and SS also become more and more aware of this inevitability, it only ramps things up, making every little decision, possible mistake and reaction all the more volatile.
I can’t think of anything in particular that distinguishes Naked Among Wolves form other Holocaust movies. There were no specifics about the horrors that went on in these places that I hadn’t already read about or seen in other stories about this time and these places. But this is a subject matter that doesn’t need to be freshened up to remain shocking.