Marek Najbrt chooses style over clarity in this often fascinating WWII story set largely in Prague during the Nazi occupation. Built as a long flashback from the assassination of Nazi Chief Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, which led to a huge round-up of ‘usual suspects’ and a wave of revenge executions, the story centers on a married couple’s progress going back to 1938. When first seen, she’s a rising film actress and he’s a second-tier radio announcer & executive. But as the German’s gain control, her Jewish background and his mellifluous voice reverse their career arcs; soon, she’s down & out while he’s become famous as the Voice of a Nation. The stress of an emotional separation escalates from professional to personal, until a mix-up with the assassination brings about a new kind of bond between them. Najbrt (surely this name is missing a vowel?) uses a gorgeous mix of palettes in showing the different levels of life between their art, their work and their lives. But he tends to gloss over a level of reckless behavior that’s hard to accept given the life-or-death circumstances. Were the Czechs really this blind/cavalier about the consequences of their political provocations? He also drops an interesting line of action that has Marek Daniel, playing the star announcer, hoping to work against the Nazis from within the system. No doubt, he found this impossible, but it’s never properly dramatized for us. Perhaps it’s all more apparent to a local audience. What’s apparent over here is that Marek Daniel is an absolute ‘ringer’ for Christopher Hitchens. It’s a visual touch that adds rather than subtracts from the verisimilitude of this worthwhile, if flawed political thriller.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: Laurent Biner's recently translated HHhH is a well-reviewed 'faction' that charts the career of the infamous Reinhard Heydrich.
DOUBLE-BILL: For a period film that deals with the Heydrich assassination and was made soon after the real-life events, there’s Fritz Lang’s terribly uneven, but often effective HANGMEN ALSO DIE/’43 which has superbly suspenseful story construction from playwright Bertold Brecht in his sole Hollywood screenwriting credit.