Most of the popular opinions on best holocaust films generally begins with either ‘Schindler’s List’ or ‘The Pianist’; here’s one of the quite lesser known masterpiece and moving humanitarian document from the cinema of Czechoslovakia that worthy enough to stamp with the most moving drama ever made on horror of holocaust. Its heartbreaking personal story of two juxtaposed protagonists set in the backdrop of small town who as film progresses slowly turning into bifurcating humanity under oppressive Fascist power of Second World War.
A jobless protagonist Tono is a carpenter trying to push his hard luck but otherwise very content and unaffected man from war. His nagging and ambitious wife pushing him to earn more money with little help of quite selfish brother-in-law who happens to be an army officer. Tono gets a permit letter to be the new manager of a shop on main street managed by an old Jewish widow who’s suffering from hearing problem. To narrate what happens further is insult to reveal for the film like this which not in a single frame unnecessarily pulled the drama, plot or story or heightens the melodrama and yet touches the true chords of our heart to give you an unforgettable experience that we expect from the great films.
The film has absolutely great direction and the Directors-screenplay writers Jan Kadar, Elmos Klos and Ladislav Grosman deserves standing ovation. It has fine opening and maintained brilliantly the shades of Neorealist cinema; classic B&W camerawork where one can witness the brilliant use of mirrors and doors in images. It has few lighter moments too but what is most striking element to watch is the sublime relationship between the Tono and Mrs. Lautman. He is everyday common man whose conscience shifts between moral responsibility and guilt and she’s angelic old mother unaware about the horrors and living her last phase of her life with her shop, Sabbath and a stranger. The drama and tension runs unexceptionally in last half an hour leading to tragic climax of disillusioned chaos between both of them. And this landmark film has two excellent and most naturally performed acts by Josef Kroner as Tono and Ida Kaminska as Mrs. Lautman is thing to envy even for the most professional and critically acclaimed actors of all-time; another strong reason to watch it before you die.
A cinema beyond ratings.