Divided We Fall

on June 08, 2001 by Jon Alon Walz
   Based on a true story, Jan Hrebejk's "Divided We Fall" covers the little-dramatized Czech experience during Nazi occupation in World War II. As an awkward comedy that exists much on the same page as "Life is Beautiful," "Divided We Fall" attempts a mix of subtle drama and tragedy, but loses much if not all meaning in the process.

   In the later years of WWII, Josef Cizek (Boleslav Polivka) runs across a malnourished and disheveled man he quickly recognizes as his friend and former employer David Wiener (Csongor Kassoi.) Josef discovers that David has in fact managed to escape a Nazi concentration camp and is trying to make his way back home undetected.

   Despite the dire risks, Josef agrees to let David hide out in his apartment until the end of the war. All goes well until a Nazi clerk begins taking a very active interest in Josef's wife Marie (Anna Siskova), and madcap comedy--filtered thought the horrors of the time--ensues.

   Although nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at this year's Oscars, "Divided We Fall" takes almost an hour to get its story moving along, and then comes to a screeching halt on a surreal note completely out of context with the rest of the film.

   If Woody Allen was correct when he wrote "comedy is tragedy plus time"--on top of the success of "Life is Beautiful" and Mel Brooks' re-success with the stage version of "The Producers"--we may have yet to endure more filmmakers trying to find something funny about WWII.    Starring Boleslav Polivka, Anna Siskova and Csongor Kassai. Directed by Jan Hrebejk. Written by Petr Jarchovsky. Produced by Ondrej Trojan and Pavel Borovan. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Comedy/Drama. Rated PG-13 for some violence and sexual content. Running time: 122 min.

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