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Post details: Lidice


71 years ago, on June 10, 1942, Nazi troops surrounded the village of Lidice and assumed positions to carry out one of the worst massacres on the Czech soil. Billed as an exemplary punishment for the assassination of the Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich, and justified by a flimsy pretext of alleged harboring of the conspirators and their collaborators, scores of the Ordnungspolizei members in polished boots marched into the village and erased it from the surface of the Earth literally within hours. Men were summarily executed behind one of the barns, houses were burned to the ground and women and children were hustled into buses and sent into concentration camps from which only a handful returned.

Making a movie based on a crime against humanity is not an easy task. Trauma kisses slowly. It can take generations for a nation to extricate its judgment from the quagmire of open wounds. The chronicler of this act of vengeance might easily be tempted to delve into a moralizing etude culminating in a vindictive stampede of high horses. Or slip into a black and white storm of available trivia, unleashing a dry dream of every war historian. The 2011 movie of director Petr Nikolaev simply titled "Lidice" managed to avoid all the obvious pitfalls and delivered a straightforward, but compelling testament to the fragility of our social order. In the process, it also gently reminded us that we are connected to the magma of human existence through our own scars. Whether we like it or not.

Nikolaev serves his dish raw. His narrative is sober, unretouched, bitter, moving, grievous, unsettling, harsh, scathing, but also observant and understanding. Its central message is well supported by the subtly abrasive acting of the main protagonist Karel Roden. The low key tone and seemingly reluctant performance accentuates movie's dark tone better than any grandiose gesture. A mosaic of small and large slowly unfolds in front of our eyes - the trite and the profound melting together under the welding arc of the pan-european delirium, the futility and the sorrow, the weakness of flesh conjoined with the strength of character, the innards of conscience that were pecked out by the war and left a hollow cavity gaping under the lid of marble discipline. All you now need is a handkerchief for the blushing God. At the end of the movie you can almost hear His hot tears dripping on frozen oceans of forgiveness.

This film does not have a happy end. Icing sugar is not a recommended ingredient in movies dealing with Nazi atrocities. And that is just as well. Exuberant fireworks would not fit the bleak nature of the subject. Especially considering that for the Czechs, the end of the war wasn't really a joyous deliverance; it was merely a transit from the oppressive Third Reich straight into the hell of a Stalinist Empire. Hardly a cause for celebration. So the movie ends with an unresolved chord - a hesitant promise of continuance. A reminder that however painful the events were, we need to carry them in our memory lest we stray away on our long way from primates to decent human beings.

If the men and women from Lidice watched the movie from their high cloud, I think they would silently approve. They would appreciate that someone else felt their sense of anguish and helplessness and conveyed it onto the silver screen so faithfully. And after so many decades, they could even feel a bit of a closure. A soft touch of human hand on their shoulders. Barely perceptible - like flecks of a shredded mirror drizzling from the sky.


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