Divided We Fall - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Divided We Fall Reviews

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June 8, 2014
Set in Czechoslovakia 1939, Divided we fall is a poignant and surprisingly comic fable about a well-meaning couple who risk their own safety by offering refuge to a young Jewish man during the Nazi occupation. Director Jan Hrebejk and writer Peter Jarchovsky approach a dark aspect of history with a sense of humour and lightness, without ever undermining the gravity of the events at hand.

Josef and Marie(Bolek Polivka and Anna Siskova) are an affable Czechoslovak couple. Josef is an unemployed man who hates the Nazis and spends most of his time idling in his own apartment, and Marie is a loving housewife. They are unable to have children but Marie yearns for a child, frequently praying in secret to the Virgin Mary for some immaculate conception. They suffer the impromptu visits of a former employee of Josef's named Horst(Jaroslav Dusek), who now unabashedly works as a Nazi collaborator. Horst pretends to visit on behalf of Josef but it is blatantly obvious to the couple that he has a romantic interest in Marie. When Josef and Marie decide, after much timid consideration, to offer shelter to a young Jewish man named David(Csongor Kassai), they find themselves in a very risky and increasingly absurd situation.

This movie is not quite like any other World War II movie you've seen. It has a soft heart and is rich with humanity, but it also boasts a very cutting sense of humour. As the films main antagonist, Horst is far from a figure of one-eyed evil, but is instead presented as foppish figure who seems to just go along with the Nazi collaboration through some imagined notions of the esteem it might bring him. He is far from a likeable character but in general he is perceived as much more idiotic than malicious. Perhaps what director Hrebejk is saying is that men like Horst were merely puppets of a much greater evil. As Josef contemplates at one point:

'You wouldn't believe what abnormal times can do to normal people.'

As the movies reluctant hero, Josef, Bolek Polivka is absolutely brilliant. I'd seen Polivka act in another of Hrebejk's movies, ''Cosy Dens'' (a film which remains immensely popularity in the Czech Republic and Slovakia), and he has one of those effortlessly winning screen presences. I've recently learnt that he is also a trained mime artist, which didn't surprise me in the least. Every emotion the character is going through- be it fear, cowardice, or utter bemusement at the situation in which he finds himself- is accurately conveyed by his incredible expressive visage. Anna Siskova is also excellent as his sweet and vulnerable wife, and Csonger Kosser is convincing as the shellshocked and frightened young man. These characters are complex and defy simplistic analysis. The good characters have their moments of regression and the more grotesque characters have their moments of goodness and tenderness. Jaroslav Dusek gives a splendidly comic performance as the movies dandyish villain, simultaneously capturing the character's insecurities and flaws.

Dirctor Hrejbek does an excellent job of keeping all the rather absurd events of the story rooted in the commonplace. Take the scene where Josef and Marie show David to his place of refuge. As if fussing over a guest, the willing couple accommodate the fugitive David with his closet-sized hiding-place to be. As Marie initiates David in the secret code for danger(a mouse-like scratch on the door) Josef smirks sardonically. The scene is not played for laughs but is naturally amusing nonetheless. Without ever underestimating the seriousness of the situation or the sense of risk, the characters are always given room to be sarcastic and endearing in a very human way. The story is light and entertaining but is also morally complex. Poor Josef learns that doing the right thing does not necessarily reap many rewards. To keep Horst from sniffing at his doorstep he accepts a job as a collaborator, a decision which besmirches his neighbourhood reputation. One of the most endearing aspects of the story is how Marie forms a sweet, maternal bond with the emaciated and vulnerable David, which, given her inability to have children, adds a real poignancy to the story.
May 1, 2014
This is a layered story with real human characters, living in a time of pervasive fanatical politics.
July 7, 2013
Brilliant. Czech movies are the best.
½ February 26, 2013
Es una historia poco convecional de la segunda guerra mundial que nos muestra a Josef y Marie que harán literalmente hasta lo imposible para poder permanecer con vida en estos duros tiempos que afectaron a todos incluso a ellos que no era judios y se supone no debían temer a los nazis, el fotografía es esplendida y la banda sonora es exquisita, las actuaciones son potentes y el desarrollo de los personajes nos hace creer que los conocemos desde hace mucho tiempo, es una grata sorpresa del cine Checo.
December 23, 2012
Touching, funny, real.
½ November 20, 2012
A great czech film. Almost perfect like "Life is beautiful".
½ July 3, 2012
Monday, March 19, 2012

(2000) Divided We Fall
(In Czechoslovakia with English subtitles)

I have to say that the main idea is similar to other war films of that nature when they're people who rebel against Nazi laws by hiding Jewish people in secret basements/ compartments and so forth except that the main difference here is that there has never been a film (as far as I know) about how this particular Czech husband and his faithful wife risked hiding a Jewish person from execution and at the same time putting their own lives at risk. This is all fine and dandy except that the impact may have been stronger had it been based on fact since this is what people want to see happen which in most cases doesn't! The claustophobia effect works quite suspensfully with it's hand held camera movements centering alot of the times on the central star who was nearly caught several times as a result of hiding a Czechoslovakian Jewish person. Nominated for an Oscar for Best foreign film!

3 out of 4
½ May 4, 2012
Definitely worth watching. Not only are the basic components here well shaped and layered, but the film's central thesis takes a rather unexpected turn in making a genuinely rare observation. Particularly so, given the film's specific depictions. I'm not sure that the this rarely made point constitutes a fundamental, unwavering law. And if it doesn't, the other side of said reality is certainly underrepresented here. But my experience too, is that there is some force at work in this world, doing its best to help us render said principle our reality. Against great odds. And when we honestly help this force do so, whether or not the results are immediately favorable - we are doing the most important thing imaginable. In a (rather cryptic) nutshell, this is what struck me as the thesis at the heart of the film and made the film really come alive during my viewing thereof.
Super Reviewer
September 10, 2011
Just when I thought I had enough of films inspired by the events of World War II, Divided We Fall comes with a fresh direction that left me in total awe. Brilliant rapport of comedy and severity, tense and grace infused with elaborate cinematic styles. A story of conscience, courage, compromise, and survival. Refined writing and direction! Euphoric.
Super Reviewer
July 18, 2011
nominated for best foreign film at the oscars
June 18, 2011
Divided We Fall is one the nominees for the Foreign Language Film Oscar won by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000. This is a very different film than Ang Lee's martial arts masterpiece, but it's still a very strong film. There were points early this film when I admit I was thinking, "Another Holocaust movie? What's left to say?" But then the characters really began to engage me. Everyone here is human. The couple hiding the Jewish concentration camp escapee are not necessarily happy to be risking their lives. Others have already turned him away. Horst, their Nazi collaborator acquaintance is a boorish man, but even he has another, better side.
March 6, 2011
A superb film about the price humanity pays when confronted with the need to survive impossible situations.
December 3, 2010
I really enjoyed Hrebejk's vision in delivering this well made Oscar nomination feature. It has so much human feelings that makes the story to be character driven. Polivka, Siskova, Kassai and Dusek all delivered believeable characters. I love this screenplay by Hrebejk and Jarchovsky. Never a dull moment just lots of emotions and survival during the second world war.
November 28, 2010
Kind of unbalanced. Shows the holocaust in full swing, but with a certain amount of humour. Not a great movie, but definitely there is something to it, making it worth watching.
½ November 16, 2010
A beautiful movie.deserves to be Oscar Nominated.A movie that focus on a normal couples life rather than the community..Shows the importance of being united in desperate situations.A must watch
Super Reviewer
½ November 13, 2010
It takes a lot for a movie to rehash the whole hiding a Jew and suffering the wrath of the Germans theme....in that sense, this movie is unique. There is a subtle comical flair to the whole movie, with the background score never displaying any tension. The character sketches are well developed and the story...a little light-hearted for the most part. However, I cannot say that it meets, or surpasses, the standards expected out of a Nazi themed movie.
½ September 27, 2010
Triumph of humanity. Great movie!
½ August 24, 2010
Good Oscar Foreign Film nominee from the Czech Republic about a husband and wife hiding a Jewish friend from the Nazis. It's got some cliches in it and there are a couple predictable "twists" (probably due to the film's poster), but it's all well done so it's easy to forgive. Nice suspenseful moments throughout, and the actors all do a great job.
August 10, 2010
(** 1/2): Thumbs Down

A good cast and interesting story but I felt the humor and direction at times just didn't work well. A near-miss.
June 4, 2010

A strange tale, but I liked it because it is ultimately uplifting although not exactly in the way that I would have expected. This wartime drama is reputed to be based upon the true-life experience of a small group of residents living in a quaint Czech village which comes to be invaded and occupied by the Nazis in the early stages of WWII. The story recounts how the villagers' lives, especially one young couple's life, are changed if not turned upside down because of this and, as a result, how their relationships with friends, co-workers, and neighbors changes. Over the next few years as their situation becomes increasingly dire under a load of German rules and restrictions replete with stiff penalties for their observance, everyone tries to survive as best they can by helping each other (a nod to the Czech title) as they are able and willing to do so. This means that sometimes hard choices must be made and, as always, this means that certain trade-offs need to be met. But even when Russian troops overtake the area and the Nazis are pushed out, the trouble doesn't end there for these poor people as other difficulties present themselves. At heart this is a story about sacrifice and forgiveness and doing what it takes to get along for these villagers.
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