There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Love conquers all. Life goes on. Such humanist clichés seem particularly hollow in the shadow of the Holocaust—or when employed in a Holocaust film, even one that’s meant to be humorous. Yet the Holocaust comedy shows no sign of faltering, especially with foreign-film Oscar nominations virtually guaranteed for credible examples of the genre. Although Jan (Cozy Dens) Hrebejk’s Divided We Fall didn’t follow Life Is Beautiful all the way to winning the award, it is getting an American commercial release—rare for Czech films these days—and respectful reviews. Beginning in German-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1943, the film recounts the nativity story of the archly named Marie (Anna Siskova) and Josef (Boleslav Polivka), who find enough room at their inn for a former neighbor: Jewish concentration-camp escapee David (Csongor Kassai). At first, they have to hide David only from their overbearing German-born friend Horst (Jaroslav Dusek), a Nazi collaborator who shares some of the spoils of the black market in hopes of seducing Marie. When she definitively rejects him, Horst decides to move a Nazi official into the couple’s house. To prevent this, Marie announces that she’s pregnant—even though Josef’s sterility is a badly kept secret in the neighborhood. Now Marie and Josef need an immaculate conception—or a sperm donation from their clandestine boarder. Born in the ’60s, Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarchovsky (who adapted the script from his own novel) call themselves “Velvet Generation” filmmakers; their parable ends with an ironic hint of Czechoslovakia’s “rebirth” under another form of tyranny. Despite some subtle performances—notably from Polivka—the film is fundamentally a farce, set in an era that resists the form. The result isn’t exactly dishonest, but it does seem off-key.