Monday, March 29, 2010

A love like that

If ‘The God Delusion’ discombobulated me, the Czech ‘Romeo and Juliet’ left me with a very heavy heart. Firstly I must admit that I’m not a movie guy but I enjoy most of the movies played at Cineastes.

There have been many romantic movies made on the topic of ‘romance during holocaust’ but this old movie really encompassed the human emotions of compassion, care, self-respect, love and even cruelty in a captivating manner without the use of complicated sets or even blood and gore that generally form a part of such movies. All that was to be said was done so by the dialogues and expressions that the minds of the audience decipher without necessarily registering them consciously and it is these subtle elements that can make the same storyline appealing in one movie while making another avoidable. Now the reason for the absence of complicated sets was probably the time during which the movie was made; it’s an old movie.
The movie starts at the same scene where it ends; a room with an open window and door through which a strong breeze is blowing flipping the pages of a book lying on the table. A terrorized young man comes running inside and picks the book. What happens in between kept me glued to my seat.

There is a backdrop of victim’s fear and the tormentor’s unreasonable hatred and the desperate attempts of self-preservation by those caught in between. In such a situation, out of compassion, a young man, Pavel rescues a young Jewish woman, Henka, from the jaws of death and hides her in a room that he uses to develop pictures. Henka, the daughter of a doctor who has been sent to a camp and never heard from afterwards, is confused about whether she wants to live or die. At times she resolves to leave the attic where she’s hiding. She does appreciate Pavel’s efforts to save her but at the same time is averse to the idea of living on somebody’s sympathy. Pavel, who despite being nerve-wrecked because of the announcements that those who shelter Jews will be executed alongside them, leaves no stone unturned to give Henka a happy life in his attic room. He rejects Henka’s statement that he’s an Aryan and she’s not by saying that such things were mere inventions of a few crooked minds.

Pavel is in love with Henka but she misinterprets it as his sympathy. It’s when out of sheer frustration when he finally says it aloud that he’s in love with her, does she realize that all his efforts were out love and she accepts his love. They both manage to spend some time together and hide from prying eyes despite the growing suspicion. They sit and look at the stars from the window of the room. They dream of how life is going to be like when this nightmare is over and yearn to live it. Just outside the little room of love is an atmosphere of terror where people fear for their lives and Pavel’s mother is no exception to this. When the beans get spilled, she goes up to the attic room with food and money to request to ask Henka to leave immediately because she fears for the life of her son but the sight of Henka melts her heart and she becomes double minded. Henka, who doesn’t want to bring any harm to Pavel, defends his actions and takes the blame on herself and gets ready to leave but in the chaos, others in the locality spot her just at a time when the soldiers are out raiding homes looking for hidden Jews. Henka runs out so as not to bring harm to anybody in the locality not in the least to her beloved Pavel. A bewildered Pavel runs out to stop her but she escapes from the main gate of the locality which gets locked up as soon as she exits; Pavel is left behind and cries and beats wildly at the gate to find a way out but it’s too late, there are gunshots outside; the hope is gone and the dreams are shattered. The last scene is also the first scene, like I said; an open window and a door and a strong breeze flipping the pages of a book that belonged to Henka. That is a very superficial overview of a movie with great dialogues and acting that was an absolute treat to watch (though I wish they both could’ve escaped to America or someplace and lived happily ever after).
Then the inevitable happens; I start to sob in the auditorium (Damn! Sad movies always make me cry). I kept consoling myself by saying “hey it’s just a story”. But I couldn’t help but think of the many people that must’ve actually suffered similar or far worse tragedies in the holocaust or in pogroms even in our own country. It takes so much to love and so little to kill. I wish we humans had a brain that had an inferior ability to hate and discriminate. I believe it is totally in our capacity to hate less but so many times we choose otherwise.

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