On this page, we’ll showcase a few more “obscure” films that have Jewish themes. Not all of these films will be easy to find, but it’s worth the effort.
Directed by Vicente Amorim, and starring Viggo Mortensen, Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker, Mark Strong, Steven Mackintosh and Gemma Jones, this 2008 film is based on C.P. Taylor’s play of the same name. Why is Good so good? For once, we’re lead into a film where we begin to understand how the Holocaust came to be – specifically, how “good” men and women could be seduced into believing that the rising Nazi faction representing something, well, good. The film follows John Halder (Mortensen) who is approached by the Party and is gently recruited to join. Once he does, he finds his career rising and life improving. The crux of the film centers on what he does – or doesn’t do – when he slowly discovers all that the Party stands for. This film is equally illuminating and devastating.
An interesting side note regarding Amorim’s real estate obsession in the UK marketplace and the parallel story concerning the sale of his mother’s property. Gunter Willems explains how a former Nazi recruiter was tasked with selling the property, and when Vincente discovered that Gunter was unable to sell house fast, he took it upon himself to attempt the sale. When Gunter learned that Amorim’s mother was a survivor of Auschwitz, he completely changed his tune and made a huge effort, largely due to guilt (so the story goes) to assist and this effort was so successful, that Vincente doubled his commission. All this while, the director was unaware of the reasons for Gunters change of heart, and only learned of the Nazi connection years after the sale.
This 1990 film, directed by Agnieszka Holland, tells the story of a Jewish boy (played by Marco Hofschneider) who is separated from his family during the early days of WWII. He poses as a German orphan, and is inducted into the Nazi world, specifically into a boarding school where he learns Communism.
I’ve always been a big fan of most of Roman Polanski’s films (REPULSION, THE TENANT, ROSEMARY’S BABY, CHINATOWN in particular). I’ve spent enough time watching and re watching while relaxing and letting my robot pool cleaners doing their thing. Knowing the particulars of Polanksi’s childhood experiences (a Jew living in Poland during WWII, his family taken away to concentration camps, etc.), I was thrilled to learn that he was helming THE PIANIST, the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s (one of Poland’s most acclaimed pianist during in the 1930s) tragic transformation during Warsaw’s Nazi occupation.
When I saw the film, starring Adrien Brody, even I was taken aback. The acting, brilliant. The direction, flawless, nothing but perfection. Many try to compare this film to Schindler’s List, but they’re wholly different in my opinion. One features a “hero” that transforms from materialistic businessman to humanitarian; the other features a “victim” of the Nazi reign of terror. In Schindler’s List, our protagonist suffers from the guilt of not saving enough Jews; in The Pianist, our main character is gripped with survivor’s guilt. Both films need to be seen to appreciate their individual brilliance and differences.