Divided We Fall (2000) 

 

 

 

Director:     Jan Hrebejk.  

Starring:       Bolek Polívka (Josef Cízek),  Anna Sisková (Marie Cizková),  Csongor Kassai (David Wiener),  Jaroslav Dusek (Horst Prohaska),  Martin Huba (Dr. Albrecht Kepke),  Jirí Pecha (Frantisek Simácek), Simona Stasová (Libuse Simácková),  Vladimir Marek (SS Officer)Richard Tesarík (Captain),   Karel Hermánek (Captain),  Otto Sevcík (SS Offcier), Jirí Kodet (Dr. Fischer-Rybáf).

in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia, a couple agree to hide a Jewish friend

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

Three men (Josef Cízek, Horst Prohaska and David Wiener) are driving down a dirt road with open field on both sides. Horst, the driver, stops the car. All three men get out to urinate. Josef and David finish first and get into the car. Josef sits in the driver's seat. He starts up the car and takes off. Horst has to run after the car. He catches up and hits the trunk two times. Josef stops the car and Horst takes over as the driver.

1939. Germany has occupied Czechoslovakia and Jewish families are being sent away. David is very naive when he says that his father believes this won't last longer than a few months. He tells Josef that their family won't intrude on him for very long. Josef responds: "It's terrible, David. We must be hopeful."

The Weiner family and what they can carry are pulled by a wagon over to Josef's house. Josef's wife Marie is there to welcome them. A neighbor, Mr Franta Imaek, comes over to see if the group needs any help.

1941. The Jewish people are now required to have a yellow Star of David patch on their clothing. The Weiner family is leaving today. Josef gives Mr. Weiner some food to take with him for the family.

David speaks with Marie and says: "Aunt Frieda wrote that it's okay in Thersienstadt. Children go to school." [Thersienstad was a lie. The Germans used it to show people how humane and good life can be in a camp. The people have a relatively "good" life, but their final stay would be in a concentration camp.]

The Jewish family of five head to the concentration place accompanied by Josef and Franta.

1943. David is back in the town. He looks terrible. He is thinner and dirty. And he's sick. In the dark he heads for the home of Josef and Marie. He has a terrible cough. David has to be very careful not to be seen by anyone.

Franta's Jack Russell terrier barks at David who is trying to hide. Franta comes over to pick his dog up and David says hello to him. Franta is absolutely shocked to see David. David says he needs help. Franta says: "If somebody sees you, they'll execute the whole street." Franta urges David to get out of here. He does more than that. He yells out "Jew" to two German soldiers on a motorcycle with a sidecar. The soldiers can't hear Franta yelling.

David is on the run again.

It's a nice, bright day. Children are playing in the street along with the Jack Russell dog. Josef looks out his window down on the street. He asks his wife why can't those bastards stay off the street?  Marie objects to his calling the children bastards. Marie is very religious and has a large framed painting of the Madonna and her baby Jesus. Josef tells her that even if Marie could have a child, he still wouldn't bring a child into this world.

Theie door bell rings and Josef says that's her Nazi friend coming to call on her. It's Horst, the Nazi collaborator complete with a Hitler type mustache. He says he has something for Josef and Marie. He goes to the kitchen and kisses Marie's hand. Horst has brought them some real coffee. The collaborator has also brought some large sausages for them.

Horst says that he knows Josef's head is full with the news of Stalingrad and the never-ending siege of Leningrad. Horst says the Stalingrad pull-back is only to give the Germans some room to fight the Russians in the open away from the urban area.

Horst says a new family is moving into Wiener's villa tomorrow. He adds that he hopes that Josef won't start pitying the Wiener family again. Josef says that Mr. Wiener was their boss. Horst adds that and Josef was his boss, but now his superior is Herr Kepke. Josef says that Wiener was a decent man who even at times helped Horst. Horts replies: "Look, you can't expect me to show sympathy to some Yid or any other enemy of the Reich."

Horst tells Marie that at one time Horst was the "energetic boss of the sales department." Josef reminds Horst that while working on border fortifications for the Nazis a trans fell and broke his leg in three places.

Horst is really too pushy in the way he acts. He's in your face with way too much energy talking non-stop. Josef and Marie tolerate him. Another bad thing is that Horst really adores Marie and often becomes way too fresh with her.

Josef is going over to the Wiener villa to retrieve some valuables. Marie doesn't want him to go because it is dangerous. She says after all, haven't we done enough for them already? "Who knows if they'll ever come back." Josef says he made a promise to the family and he has to keep that promise.

Late at night Josef sneaks out of the apartment building. He opens the door to the villa with a key and starts looking around. Deeply engrossed in his task, Josef is frightened by the sudden appearance of David. He says he escaped from Poland. And he's in the house just to take some valuables he can sell for some money.

Josef tells David that he has to get out of the house immediately because tomorrow morning the Germans are coming.

Josef with David go to Josef's home and start climbing up the dark stairway. Joseph is frightened when he runs into Mari on the stairway in the dark. She says she was afraid that something might have happened to Josef.

Marie asks who's with him? David comes forward and Marie immediately recognizes him. She is taken aback a little because of the way he looks. Now they all climb the lighted stairs to their flat.

They give some food for David to eat. Josef warns him that this area is not a safe place because it's full of collaborators and finks. He comments: "The swine." Marie asks about David's family and he says they're probably all dead. Marie says that David himself told her that Thersienstadt was a good place. David says: "It's just a transfer station to the camps in Poland and nobody there is supposed to survive."

They ask David what is he going to do now? He says tomorrow he will meet a friend outside of town.. They will move on together. David says he can drive David to the meeting place. He has papers and has a car he is borrowing from Horst.

So the next morning the two men start on their trip. When they arrive near the meeting place Josef opens the trunk and lets David out.

Horst is there with the new German family, including their young boy in a Nazi uniform, as they take over the Wiener villa.

David sits in the car with Josef and is now wondering if David's friend is going to show up at all. David says they probably got his friend. So now he will go on by himself, while Josef goes back home. David gets out of the car and starts walking down a country lane. Josef backs up and catches up with David. David gets in the trunk.

Josef is driving around a corner and sees a German officer standing by his non-working automobile. The officer see and yells for Josef to come over to him. Josef says: "Oh, my God!" He stops his car and the officer rushes over to him. He explains that they are having car trouble and he needs a number 13 wrench.

Josef gets out of the car. He tells the officer that what he needs is a number 14 wrench. He adds that he knows this because the stranded car is a Czech car and he has worked on this model of car. He goes around to the trunk. Josef then asks the officer to find out if his car has enough gas. As the officer is doing this, Joseph opens the trunk and David virtually tosses the package of numbered wrenches onto the road.

The officer says that Josef is very helpful and kind, as well as being very funny. As Josef goes over to the car to fix it, the curious officer starts checking out his car. Naturally, this makes Josef nervous, but he quickly solves the mechanical problem and says goodbye to the officer.

At home with David, Marie gives him some of Josef's clothes to wear. David is so grateful that he puts the jewelry from his house onto the table for Marie and Josef to have. Josef says absolutely not. He wants David to keep them. Now they take David to a hiding place behind a closet.

Josef says that there are many back rooms like this in the area because some of the people knew what was coming for them. David will be able to hear what's going on in the flat. Josef also points out that the rain gutter is here. They give David a mattress and some blankets. He also gets a lantern.

Josef and Marie talk in very low voices about what they should do with David. They decide definitely to keep him hidden. It would be worse trouble to turn him in to the Germans.

Josef and Marie are cooking up a pig and the smell is all around the house. Then there is a terrible racket outside and a voice says: "Hands up!" The noise is so loud that it even scares David.

And then Horst comes in laughing at his little prank. Josef says: "What an idiot." He smells the cooked pork and he tells Josef and Marie that they are asking for their flat to be searched.

Horst pulls out a fancy candle-holder and says they confiscated it and he thought it might look good on the table here. Josef doesn't seem to want it anymore after hearing all this. Horst also asks if Josef is going to take that job that is available working for the Nazis.

The three of them all have a pork dinner. Horst tells his hosts: "I feel so good here with you." He adds that Josef got the job for him in the warehouse. He says further that Josef took him in like a son. But the other workers teased him constantly calling him Wurst rather than Horst. Horst now farts at the dinner table to the shock and surprise of his two hosts.

He says they must all stick together. Yesterday he was in trouble, tomorrow it might be Josef who is in trouble. While Horst drones on and on, there is another loud bang at the door. Horst virtually dives for cover under the table, but he can't stay there. He helps the husband and wife take everything off the table at once by picking up the table cloth, forcing everything to the center and then Josef picks it all up and throws it into the closet.  Many a dish is heard breaking.

Fortunately, it's only one of Horst's son. He says that mother wants him home right now. Horst tells his boy that that's no way to knock on a door. He also calls the boy an idiot. He shakes the boys for awhile and then takes him up to see the couple. He introduces his son as Karl. Horst says he delivered this boy all by himself. Horst tells the couple to be more careful because they could be turned in by someone and then how could poor Horst help his two friends?

Josef kills one of their rabbits and Marie hangs it up. She now starts to skin the rabbit. Josef says Horst comes over only to see his wife. Horst says he comes to see his buddy Josef, but he knows what Horst is really up to. And when Horst comes now-a-days he just barges into their home. So Marie tells him to deprive Horst of that excuse to see her by taking the job that Horst is always offering him. Josef asks her: "Do you know where you're pushing me?" Marie says that Josef brought David her and he has to do what he has to do so David's presence will not be found out.

Marie gets very mad at Josef for telling her not to set a table for three. They had an agreement that David would eat inside his hiding place. Marie says that poor David can't stay in that hole all day and all night. But Josef insists and she goes to take the food to David.

Marie sits with David while he eats his food. She asks if he needs anything? No. Does he think much about his family? He says his sister could have saved herself by taking the job of a kapo. She was given a club and told to beat her parents to death. Her parents begged their daughter to beat them to death.  She refused.

Franta is out walking his dog when he suddenly sees Josef working along side the Nazi collaborator Horst. He is shocked. Franta spits on the ground and walks off with his dog.

Horst asks Josef about Marie since it's been awhile since he last saw her. Josef says she is studying French. Horst whispers that now the Germans don't trust anyone and they are searching everywhere for infractions of the rules. And it can be something simple like a Czech learning French and not German. Furthermore, he says that Josef has to train his face so that no one will be able to see how he feels. He tells Josef how to do this. So Josef relaxes the muscles of his face until Horst says that's good.

Horst and Josef walk over to the old Wiener villa. They go inside and walk to the piano room where the son is playing the piano while his father listens. The father is none other than Kepke, the man that Horst reports to. Kepke says that someone calculated that one German soldier is worth 20 Slavs and a hundred Jews.

Marie brings in a sun lamp and some apples for David. She also leaves her fur coat with him.

Josef and Horst arrive late at Josef's place. Horst says that Marie must be very lonely and perhaps he should pay her a visit to cheer her up. Josef reiterates that his wife is not feeling well.

Horst starts looking at the apartment building checking for something strange or different. While he is tying his shoelaces, he hears some voices coming from the water gutter. He puts his ear closer to the spout and hears Marie speaking French phrases to someone other than her husband who corrects her mistakes.

Marie finishes and comes into the dining room from the hiding place and he says she must be crazy. He thought she was sleeping put now finds out that she was studying with David. He says to Marie that Horst walked him all the way home and wanted to come up and see Marie. "What if he'd come up?"

Josef opens the window and looks down on the sidewalk. There he sees Horst, who tells Josef to be careful about darkening his windows.

The fight about David continues. Josef says he doesn't want her going into the hiding place unless he himself is home. She says David is very sick. Josef says that's all the more reason for her not to be spending a lot of time with David.

David has a hard time sleeping with his nasty cough. He thinks about his family.

The man who now lives in the Wiener villa is being driven by Horst who is accompanied by Josef.

Now Marie is sick and David is taking care of her during the day.

Kepke who lives in the villa is sick too. The three of them go up to Josef's place. David has to jump in under the bed covers with Marie so as not to be discovered. The result is pretty comical as the men keep coming in to check on Marie, especially Horst, and she has to adjust the blankets to make sure no one will suspect anyone.

Marie calls for Josef, but, of course, Horst comes in to check on her. He closes the door behind him and puts his face down besides Marie's face.

The men are all a bit drunk. Horst starts getting fresh with Marie putting his hands where they don't belong. He then pulls out her hand from under the covers, but it's actually David's hand. Horst kisses the hand.

Josef comes in and sees David's hand. So he starts singing a ridiculous song. Soon all three are singing at the top of their lungs. People across the street hear the men singing. Even the kids in the street stop playing to listen to what's going on in Josef's flat.

At the old Wiener villa, the father is sending off his child Willy to military school.

One day Horst pays an unexpected visit to Marie's house. He sneaks up behind her and gives her a fright. She asks where is Josef? Horst says that he is seeing Dr. Fischer and when he is done he doesn't think that Marie will be the problem, but rather Josef will be.

Horst has bought her a new dress and he insists that she change into it. She says that she will try it on, but she's not going anywhere with him. But Horst has plans for a trip.

So off they drive. She says she needs to be home early. Horst intimates that he knows she has some man in the closet. Marie looks worried, but Horst says he would never tells anyone even if she had a buffalo in the closet.

Horst starts putting his hand on her knees. She doesn't like it and takes his hands off her. Meanwhile Horst starts losing control of the car and she tells him to be careful and watch the road.

Josef still waits for the doctor. The officer with the broken down car sees him waiting and comes over to him to talk to him. He tells Josef that Dr. Fischer is a highly proficient professional. He did 100 sterilizations of "Gypsy trash" without a problem.

Horst takes Marie to a nice place where they can eat at outdoor tables. Marie has ice cream and Horst has a coffee. And then Horst orders two cognacs, despite the fact the Marie told him she doesn't want any liquor.

She says to Horst that she is a bit afraid of him. And she is a married woman. Horst says yes she's married but to a burnt-out wick. "You voluntarily live in a tomb." She reminds him that he is married too. Horst express dissatisfaction with his wife. He says he doesn't love his wife any more. He asks Marie if she loves Josef and she says yes.

Horst tells Marie that his wife is afraid the Czechs will punish her and the family after the war. She wants to go to Germany, but Horst says the Germans are getting bombed almost every day.

Josef has to give the doctor a semen sample in a large tube.

Horst takes Marie on a picnic and tries to take her by force. She really fights him and says it's not right for him to rape her. She finally knees him in the groin. Horst goes down. She tells him she didn't want to hurt him. She says she thinks she's pregnant. Horst says she's lying. She says she wants to go home. Horst says he can't go just now.

The doctor tells Josef that he can't have children. There is something wrong with his sperm. Josef just says thank you to the doctor and leaves. Outside he sees a neighbor woman with her six children shunning him for working with the Nazis. He hurries over to her to try to explain to her the situation. He says: "I'm a decent man with nothing in common with those swine." The German officer drives by and shouts hello to his comrade. This gives the neighbor enough time to get away from Josef.

When Josef gets home he is startled to see David in the living room waiting for him. David tells him that he's leaving. What if they catch David? He says he won't be taken alive. Josef figures that David's decision is due to Josef working with the Nazis and the collaborators. He explains he hates those people.

Marie comes home from her ride. Josef asks her where's she been, but Marie doesn't give him an answer. She asks where's he going? He says that David says he's leaving. Josef puts his foot down and tells David to get back in his hiding place.

Horst wants to put Kepke in the flat with Josef and Marie. It seems his smallest son deserted from the army, was caught and shot. Kepke's wife had a mental breakdown and Kepke had a stroke. Marie asks of her husband: "What is that to us?" It's important because Horst wants to move Kepke into their flat.

Marie goes outside to talk with Kepke. She says she gives her condolences to him for the terrible tragedy that befell Kepke. Nevertheless, Kepke can't move in with them. She is expecting a baby and they will need the children's room. Kepke apologizes to them and then goes with Horst.

Josef is mad at Marie because he thinks she had an affair. She has to tell him that she's not pregnant. And she has never slept with anyone except Josef. Now they reconcile.

Then Josef realizes what a terrible problem this creates for them. What are they going to say when she doesn't start showing that she's pregnant. Then they will be in real trouble.

He thinks some more and says that she must have sex with David so that she will get pregnant. Marie says absolutely not. She doesn't want to and thinks it's not right. In fact, she says she will never do it. Josef says it's either pregnancy or their deaths.

Josef has to work on her some more, but the time arrives when she has to get in bed with David. Josef is starting to get drunk so he won't feel any emotional pain. The doorbell rings and David vaults out of the bedroom and heads to the closet. Josef grabs him and tells both him and his wife to get back inside the bedroom and just do it. He adds: "Just be calm."

And, of course, it's Horst. He says he can't cover for his friends about the pregnancy. He says that everyone will be suspicious of the pregnancy. Josef says they are working on it now.

Josef goes back upstairs and takes his wife into the bedroom and puts her in bed with David. She still maintains that she can't do this. Josef reminds her that this is a matter of life (their lives) and death (their deaths). He is having a hell of a time getting this project started. He gets frustrated and says: "Damn it! It's our lives."

Horst rides a bicycle to the flat of his friends. He is teased by the neighbor's across the way. They probably think that Horst had sex with Marie. Horst comes up and sees the obviously pregnant Marie. He asks her to forgive him for that afternoon when he acted like an animal with her. Marie remains silent.

Horst has brought baby clothes for both a boy and a girl. Marie asks him to stay for dinner. Horst is happy about that. Now he talks with Joseph. He is getting very scared about the Germans leaving and the Russians coming in. He says that he knows a safe place where they can put their "guest".

Horst wants Josef to be as worried as he is about what's coming for them. Josef just tells him that he doesn't have to hide anything or anybody. This makes Horst very angry and he brings his fist down on the table. He says: "Every day here it's life and death. Let's not pretend." So Horst tries to break into the closet. Josef holds him back. Their little struggle is broken up by submachine gun firing. They look outside and see that the Germans are grabbing people from the town right and left.

Both Marie and Josef are very afraid. But this time Horst is very calm. He fixes up his appearance and runs down stairs. The Germans are checking everywhere and are finding all kinds of contraband. They shoot Franta's small dog for barking at them for a long time.

Horst comes out onto the street and talks to the officer in charge. He says: "You are at the house of a citizen of the Reich. We've fulfilled our duty." He hands his papers over to the officer. The officer looks at the papers and says it's okay. He turns and leaves.

Josef waits for Horst on the stairs. They both sit down. Josef tells Horst that he saved both his and Marie's lives and probably David's too. Horst replies: "Divided we fall." Josef gives him a puff on his cigarette and then Josef puts his arm around Horst's shoulders.

After the Germans leave, everybody in the village starts pulling down and destroying any traces of the Nazi Occupation. A woman collaborator with the fascists gets her hair cut extremely short.

Kepke is arrested. The woman with the many children grabs her children one by one to lift them up and let them slap Kepke in the face.

Some type of explosion blows out the glass windows in the living room of Josef and Marie. And Marie says she is having the baby now, a little prematurely. Josef tells David to wait with Marie while he goes to find a doctor.

Josef asks an ambulance driver, but he is too busy picking up wounded persons. The local doctor is picked up by the partisans.

And now there are Russian soldiers all over the place. He goes in to see the commander of the Russian forces, but only finds a captain of the Czech armed forces en abstentia. Franta is there and he tells the the captain that Josef worked with the Germans confiscating Jewish property. He was also close with collaborators. But Josef has an ace in his pocket. He proudly says: "I hid a fugitive, a Jew." The fellow is a son of the Jewish industrialist that lived in town and his name is David Wiener. For two years the man hid in their pantry behind their closet.

The captain says that all the desperate ones claim they have housed a Jew or a partisan. Josef says but his refugee is right now sitting on his wife's bed while she is giving birth.

The captain and some soldiers take Josef to his flat to see if he is telling the truth. Josef had told them that the doctor was nearby so they bring him to a place where collaborators are being held. All of a sudden Josef sees the head of an obviously beaten Horst. Josef hesitates a little, but then points to Horst and says that's our doctor. The captain expresses his doubts, but Josef keeps telling the captain that this is their doctor and his wife needs him right away.

Finally, Horst regains his senses and starts asking doctor-type questions of Josef. When Josef says the birth is premature, Horst tells the captain that they have no time to lose. They must save Mrs. Marie. Now everybody is going to Josef's flat to see if his story is true.

The fellows arrive at the street address and a German left-over starts firing at them. A Russian soldier shoots and kills the Germans. When everyone starts coming up the steps David panics and goes to hide somewhere else.

Marie is indeed in labor. She gets very frightened when Josef introduces Horst as the doctor. Josef has to put his hand over her mouth to prevent an outburst that could jeopardize the whole plan. Horst tells her that he birthed all three of his children.

Meanwhile, the captain goes to the pantry to check on this David. David is not there. Now Josef is getting a bit desperate because the captain doesn't believe his story. Josef finds a container used by David. When Josef opens the container it is filled with jewels. Now the captain accuses Josef of trying to bribe him.

The captain takes Josef outside and forces him to get on his knees. He is about to shoot Josef in the head when David pops his head out of a ventilation shaft. Josef is so happy to see David that he pulls himself along the ground until he gets by David's head. He puts his arms around David's shoulders. And all the while Josef keeps shouting this is our David.

The captain asks for David's papers, but David doesn't have any. Josef quickly grabs David's left forearm and shows the captain the tattoo of his number on his forearm when he was in the concentration camp. The captain tries to rub the writing off, but it's not coming off. The captain now apologizes saying he just can't believe what anyone says without proof. Josef both cries and laughs together and hugs David's head.

Now everyone is waiting for the birth of Marie's baby. The captain asks David if he knows the man in the other room? And is the man a doctor? David replies: "Mainly, he's a man who knew about me the whole time. He brought me medicine and food. He never betrayed us. He's a decent man." Franta says: "He's one of us."

Sounds of a newborn baby are heard. When the baby stops crying, all the men come close up to see the baby.

And now the proud father takes his baby for a carriage ride. People are working all over the place trying to clean up the damage done by the fighting. Josef has to keep dodging bricks to keep pushing the carriage forward. Franta's little Jack Russell survived his wound and now comes around to bark a little at Josef.

Josef imagines he sees the dead members of the Weiner family along with the dead Kepke boy playing cards together and drinking liquor. The Jack Russell sits in the lap of father Wiener. They smile at Josef with his baby. So Josef holds the baby boy up for them to see.

 

 

Very good movie.  My wife and I both enjoyed it.  She says:  "Finally, we get to see a Holocaust film with a happy ending."  The movie certainly had a very serious subject and yet it was humorous too as at times the movie took on the aspect of being a farce.  They had some strange characters in the film.  For a childless couple, Josef and Marie, trying to hide a Jewish young man, they were almost always in fear of being discovered.  One of the reasons for this was their friend Horst became a collaborator and worked with the Nazis and the character keeps busting into their flat at the most importune time.  And yet, Horst isn't all bad.  Josef starts working with Horst which is a collaboration with the Nazis, but Josef never became a Nazi like Horst did.  Actually, this was a ploy to keep Horst away from their flat so he wouldn't discover their hide-away.

When the Russians chase out the Germans, Josef finds himself is in deep trouble because of his collaboration with the Nazis.  Nobody believes his story and that could get him executed. 

Bolek Polívka (as Josef Cízek) and Jaroslav Dusek (as Horst Prohaska) were particularly good in the film. 

Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

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