Pattaya Daily News

24 January 2009 :: 13:01:51 pm 22209

Each Day Of Freedom Is A Victory

The goal of revisiting the Holocaust in particular is admirable, and the effort to contest prevalent myths about Jewish struggle, that is, the courageous resistance of those few who refused to go without a fight, is equally commendable in Edward Zwick?s Defiance.?
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Inspired by an extraordinary true story, Defiance tells an epic tale of three Jewish Eastern European brothers Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), and Asael (Jamie Bell) have miraculously managed to escape into the dense surrounding forest. At first, their battle is one of survival, namely simply to stay alive, which is almost oppressive due to devastatingly brutal winter. Subsequently, they vow to avenge the deaths of their loves ones by launching a desperate battle against the forces that seek to exterminate their entire race. Jewish civilization were preserved under the noses of the Nazis. The year is 1941 in Nazi-occupied Poland, and the Jews of Eastern Europe are being slaughtered wholesale. Having played in these woods since childhood, the brothers have a distinct advantage over their adversaries, and soon decide that simply surviving is not enough. There they begin their desperate battle against the Nazis.

The brothers turn a primitive struggle to survive into something far more consequential–a way to avenge the deaths of their loved ones by saving thousands of others. At first, it is all they can do to stay alive. However, as whispers of their bravery take wind, others like them appear gradually determined to lay their lives on the line for the cause of freedom. Tuvia is the de facto reluctant leader and his decisions are challenged by his brother, Zus who worries that Tuvia’s idealistic plans will will ultimately bring about the group’s downfall. Asael is the youngest–caught between his brothers’ fierce rivalry. As a brutal winter descends, they work to create a community, and to keep faith alive when all humanity appears to be lost.

A vibrant, authentic imagery, and the largely violin music creates the right mood. “We may be hunted like animals, but we will not become animals. We have all chosen this–to live free, like human beings, for as long as we can. Each day of freedom is a victory, and if we die trying to live, at least we die like human beings.” is what Tuvia exclaims and becomes the film’s recurring motif. The Bielskis represent types, almost like stereotypes. Zwick capture vividly the notion of Jewish working-class farmers, hailing from the remote countryside of Belarus, whose idealistic call to arms puts to test the limits of their courage, of their brotherhood, and of their will to defy the evil surrounding them, all along recognizing the overwhelming odds against their mission. It is noteworthy, that on at least one level, the brothers succeed by creating a peculiar but intimate community, in which faith is kept alive, even when the very essence of humanity seems to be rapidly losing ground.

Defiance is a typical Edward Zwick work as a politically charged story about a socially significant issue, which blends action and melodrama in equal measure, but suffers from lack of complexity and personal vision and is defined by an unexciting technical execution. Zwick is unafraid to tackle explicitly political and controversial films, and his ideology is just in the right place, but he makes impersonal films that lack personal stamp or distinct signature that would elevate his work to the level of meaningful art and his directing style to the level of auteurism.

In spite of its major shortcomings, the film still benefit from its stellar cast, headed by Craig, Schreiber, and Bell star as the Bielski brothers, a trio of men who turn a primitive struggle of survival into something broader and more consequential in meaning, a way to avenge the deaths of their loved family members by saving thousands of other Jews. Here, he coaxes good performances from his entire ensemble. Craig renders a strong, muscular performance as the eldest brother, whose commitment to the goal justifies the means at his disposal, even if it causes tension and antagonism with his own flesh-and-blood kin. The problem is that his character’s past as a smuggler and petty criminal is glossed over for it would have made his character’s politicization more complex and more interesting. Equally praiseworthy are Schreiber, one of the least mannered actors around, known in the saga as the wild one, and Bell, who finally emerges out of his adolescent phase with a virile turn of his own, when circumstances call for manly maturity.

It could have been more decent if the film adds a singular perspective that will definitely turn the largely untold story into a thematically and technically balanced film, and one that’s more dramatically compelling.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Lifestyle

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