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A horror film or a tragedy or both - what else can you say about a film that examines the effects of fascism (in this case instituted by the provincial Nazi supporters in Slovakia) on two people (seen as a microcosm). Tono Brtko (Jozef Kroner) is an underemployed carpenter who is granted the role of "Aryan Controller" by his brother-in-law, a local official, and told to take over the titular button shop run by elderly widow Mrs. Lautmann (Ida Kaminska) who is Jewish. We can see that Tono is suspicious of the fascists and reluctant to be a part of their movement but his wife is overjoyed at the prospects of a change in their fortunes. Some of their interactions (and a drunken night with the brother-in-law) are played for comedy but it is an unsettling sort of humour and the dissonant musical accompaniment heard in these early scenes strikes a tone of warning. When Tono does head out to take over Mrs. Lautmann's store, he finds that his instinct (spurred on by a local friend of the Jews) is to simply accommodate her, as she is elderly, hard of hearing and seemingly unaware at all of the changes in her political fortune. And since the coterie of Jewish business owners offers to pay him a weekly wage (since Lautmann's long bankrupt store wouldn't anyway), Tono is content. However, this arrangement does not last long and the film darkens considerably as the fascists begin to round up the Jews. Their friend is captured and beaten. Tono is afraid and vacillates between wanting to protect Mrs. Lautmann and thinking of turning her in. Directors Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos keep the focus on the individuals in question but it is clear that their reactions are meant to stand for those of the larger populace, who may find themselves as either the beneficiaries or victims of fascism, with complicated motivations and emotions and even more difficult relations. Although it seems obvious where the moral high ground sits, The Shop on Main Street argues humanistically that the actual predicament of confronting this plague is more fraught than one can anticipate. True bravery may be required and not everyone is made of such strong stuff. In the end, the film is a lament for humanity (and a brutal shock to the system). Stay alert.
Tragikomicky pribeh z obdobia vojnoveho slovenskeho statu. Odporucal by som vsetkym Kokotlebovcom a Mazurekom a vsetkym nackom pozriet. Nikdy som nejak nemal cas sa k tomu dostat ale som rad ze som si to pozrel.... Uplne jednoduchy remeselnik Tono Brtko sa stane Arizatorom jednoduchej, hluchej ale tak dobrosrdecnej starej pani (zidovky) Rozalie Lautmannovej a zo zaciatku to ide celkom harmonicky ked jej akoze pomaha v obchode ale v zavere filmu ked su zidia odvleceni do koncentracnych taborov a on sa snazi staru hluchu pani zachranit a vysvetlit jej nieco co ani on ako jednoduchy clovek nechape a ona uz vobec nie ... a ked mu este ona pripravi postel v obchode lebo si mysli ze ma problemy doma so zenou ta to neskutocne ... a potom ten zaver a este s tou hnusnou hudbou lame srdce no ... vynikajuce vykony herecke vykony.... to na VSMU by mali mat predmet Jozef Kroner lebo tie rychlokvasky v telke teraz to je des a bes velebnosti. Oh a este to ukazuje presne slovensku naturu odpornu, ta Brtkova zena jak poti kolko ma stara zlata poskryvaneho ... a babka gombiky predava a len tak tak ze vyzije ... no sak si aj zasluzila jak ju vytrieskal HAHA ... vyborny film. Na IMDB jeden user napisal ze it makes the shindler's list look like an average movie ...
Brilliant, patiently told, superbly acted circa WWII Holocaust drama which is told via a very personal affecting story of just a few individuals instead of trying to take on all the history and tragedy. Highly recommended, hasn't lost anything with age, just as powerful today.
This is a stunning film and as a Czech I'm proud of our Slovak ex-partners in one state for having creating something so good!
BUT! I read some COMPLETELY WRONG INFORMATION in some comments below: the film isn't set in Czechoslovakia but in Slovakian State (which had splitted in 1939 from the Czech part which started being occupated by Nazis). Slovakia proclamed loyalty to Hitler, Slovakia wasn't occupied by Nazis, it was their ally! Slovakia gave Jews to the Reich for a fee per each!
So Brtko the carpenter is not Czech, he's Slovakian who was given a Jewish shop in the process of arization of Jewish service! His ambitious brother-in-law gave it to him because he wanted to rise up in his career as a leader of Hlinka's guard (Hlinka was one of the leaders in the Slovakian State which was fascist!) so that his family would be "politically OK".
The Shop on Main Street isn't well paced and it lacks focus as there are too many characters and subplots in it, but the film is otherwise very strong not only in score which is good, acting which is terrific and cinematography which is quite polished, but also in its main characters, some very charming scenes and the third act which is very dramatic, unforgettable and quite heartbreaking leading to one of the better war dramas.
There has been an innumerable amount of movies made covering WWII and the Holocaust. This particular movie handles the Aryanization programme during WWII in the Slovak state with a strong concentration on the moral dilemma facing the main character, Tony, in wanting to do the right thing, but lacking the internal strength to actually do so. The film's success hinges upon Jozef Kroner's remarkable performance, as well as its impactful script.
Such an amazing film about two slovakian citizens who are bonded together and torn apart by fascism.
A Czech man takes over a Jewish-run business at the behest of the town's Nazi occupiers.
Filled with tense, ethical quandaries, this film is absolutely remarkable. As Tono takes over an elderly woman's shop and learns the Jewish community that supports her, his prejudices wane, but there is still a gulf between belief and action - a gulf that I suspect infected many in the wake of Nazi atrocities. His weak-willed inability to stand up for others and his pride-busting benefits from his job present him with serious ethical questions that he ultimately fails to resolve.
The performances by Josef Kroner and Ida Kaminska are as compelling as actors can be, and the direction by Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos is blithe and compelling.
Overall, this is one of the finest films I've ever seen about WWII.
good drama winner of best foreign film oscar.
Brilliantly acted but so very, very sad.