Musíme si pomáhat (Divided We Fall)

Nominated for 2000's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Jan Hřebejk's tale of life under Nazi occupation strikes a near-perfect tragicomic pitch

Directed by Jan Hřebejk

Written by Petr Jarchovský

Starring Boleslav Polívka, Anna Šišková, Jaroslav Dušek, Csongor Kassai

Czechoslovakia, late 1930s: We glimpse three co-workers motoring pleasantly through the countryside. Fast-forward a few years: Jewish David (Csongor Kassai) has been shipped off to Terezín. Germanophile Horst (Jaroslav Dušek) is the town quisling. Mild, melancholy Josef (Boleslav Polívka) just wants to get through the war unscathed, keeping his head down and tolerating Horst's frequent visits and attentions to his wife, Marie (Anna Šišková). Which visits shift from annoying to dangerous when escaped David returns and seeks shelter the only place he can, at Josef and Marie's flat.

With their characteristic humanity and a fresh take on the ubiquitous narrative of occupation, joined-at-the-hip collaborators Jan Hřebejk and Petr Jarchovský (Pelíšky, Horem pádem) have crafted one of the best war-at-home tales in the Czech or any other cinema. Often compared to (and much better than) Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful in its high-wire mix of horror and humor, Divided We Fall strikes a near-perfect tragicomic pitch as Josef, with fear and self-loathing, publicly cultivates Horst and his Nazi pals to deflect any suspicion that he's got something to hide. Heading a great cast, Polívka, the country's finest working actor, gives one of his finest performances, mining the desperate farce in Josef's awful predicament as he comes to realize, with something like terror, that he is going to do the right thing.

Year: 2000

Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes

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