Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, when Jews were removed from their professional activities, a Jewish doctor reluctantly accepts the petition of a fellow tenant to heal a political fugitive who has been shot. The moral dilemma that the doctor faces is quite obvious, but no less complicated: his previous profession of medicine had the purpose of saving lives and improving health; nevertheless, with the Nazi occupation, the potential consequences of giving medical assistance to a political fugitive are unmeasurable.
Modern Holocaust films, especially made in the U.S., normally use sensationalist portrayals of physical, psychological and/or emotional abuse against the Jews to accentuate the inhumanity of a world turned upside down. Nevertheless, Europe had a different perspective towards the conflict, equally humane, but with no manipulation and placing in the center of the table even more complex themes to treat amidst chaotic circumstances. The most notorious examples specifically talking about the Czech New Wave were <i>The Shop on Main Street</i> (1965), which embodies the multifaceted perspective of a whole town while placing an unlikely human relationship as a protagonistic element, and Zbynek Brynych's film now being discussed, which was released also in 1965.
As the film progresses, different faces of a torn nation impacted by conflicting forces are shown, which happens during the doctor's hellish search for morphine. Little hope seems to be around seedy joints where local women are forced to be prostitutes for German soldiers, bars, and insane asylums with high suicide rates. But at some point, you also begin to realize, given some clothing styles, furniture and available domestic and medical artifacts, that the film is more probable to take place in the 1960s, turning the whole show unexpectedly into an allegorical representation of the Communist dictatorship through the portrayal of the Nazi regime, becoming the thousandth Czech film that makes references to Communism. The whole show, therefore, is historically hypothetical, but socially politically valid.
Despite its seeming subtlety, <i>...and the Fifth Horseman Is Fear</i>, a title that randomly makes a Biblical speculative reference out of context, is a testament against inhuman circumstances about the exaltation of the human spirit above overwhelming ideals of power and nationalism. Morally, the film actually might be one of the most challenging to see, because it is easy to stand up from the couch feeling that certain scenarios are entirely devoid of hope. Either you support an invasive regime against the lives or well-being of others, or you must pay the terrible price of getting hold of your own definition of "ethics" and "moral". Shot spectacularly like only the 60s managed to do in beautiful Black & White, this is the Holocaust portrayed from a more mature and difficult perspective which reminds us that, as human beings, we make decisions everyday with, unfortunately, incalculable repercussions in any time term.
P.S. It is a pessimistic film, but concluding in a way that invites everybody to the contribution of a better world where we stop creating realities with dead ends.
The catharsis is executed right in the ending. Kawase uses in a most intelligent way mental limitations/disorders as a psychological distractor, but the troubles that invade the human heart are universal. Beneath the surface, both characters suffer very similarly. Absorbing cinematography and among the five best movies of 2007.
"Vozvrashchenie" is like real life. We assume the perspective of the sons and, treating us like such, the movie does not supply any meaningful answers to the events depicted. The events are meant to happen just like that, without any prior warning. Such things were meant to remain unknown. What we are offered is a breathtaking journey deep into the Russian wilderness, filmed as masterfully as few auteurs accomplish today, displaying poetry on screen like if it was the easiest thing to do.
Let's start with the basics: <i>¿Quién Puede Matar a un Niño?</i> is an unintentionally bad movie: terrible sound editing, a laughably mediocre screenplay, an intolerably simplistic couple, one of the most unbelievably retard and annoying wives in cinema (but don't worry, the film takes care of her :D) and death people that can be clearly seen breathing. So what? So is the same case with Jess Franco. Hence, you immediately move to that special, delicious underground European cinema category of the 70s and see it with an entirely different perspective.
Now... Remember how <i>The Return of the Living Dead</i> (1985) worked as an unofficial "sequel" to the story of Romero's original zombie masterpiece, supposedly telling "what really happened"? In my humble opinion, it is fun to see this controversial thriller with the same scope with respect to <i>Village of the Damned</i> (1960). After all, the silences, the deserted scenarios and the "sci-fi / alien / telepathic" creepy stares are still present in these young little bastards as a plague that seemingly cannot be stopped. Although the menace in <i>Village of the Damned</i> was definitely far superior and more intimidating, this is a lost gem among Spanish cinema.