Sunday, November 7, 2010

#187 Hitlerjunge Salomon [Europa Europa] (1990)


Director: Agnieszka Holland

Cast: Solomon Perel, Marco Hofschneider, Julie Delpy, Rene Hofschneider, Piotr Kozlowski, Klaus Abramowsky, Michele Gleizer, Marta Sandrowicz

Europa Europa is the harrowing true story of Solomon Perel, a Jewish Holocaust survivor and Nazi war hero. Yep, you read that correctly. Discovered at a Polish orphanage after being separated from his family, he haphazardly climbs Nazi ranks as a model Hitler Youth and German citizen to avoid termination. In the face of the choice of becoming a Jewish martyr or survive-- he chooses survival. Along the way, he faces countless challenges to his faith, his body, and his true identity.

Though understandingly tragic and graphic, Europa Europa manages to remain a deeply personal narrative. In Perel's story, we examine the alternative to an honest death: the price of survival. Overwhelmed with fear, confusion, and guilt, Perel faces some of the most unique challenges imaginable-- even for WWII.

This film proves not to be the easiest in the world to form an opinion on...

On one hand, I am beyond captivated at the remarkable nature of this man's story-- and I want to go running to the bookshelves to uncover what parts of this story are true (and which were embellished for the film-- though not hard to imagine most of the horrors being true). I also believe the film finds itself a stable and respected place amongst other World War II and Holocaust films-- a subject matter that we have no right to forget.

I do have some minor gripes with the film however. One being the classic European flashback/fantasy sequences. The second being the unlikely, jolting savior-like ending. What really happened?

I wish to be more present in the protagonist's consciousness as well. I see his fear, I feel his guilt-- but what is he thinking? I want to hear some of these complicated emotions verbalized....

But I guess that's where Perel's book would be helpful...

Regardless of the details and minor gripes-- this film electrifies and humbles. Overwhelms and frightens. Pays tribute and honors. Definitely a valuable view.

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