Cinema review: Defiance (2008)

Being the family man that I am, I don't normally partake of violent action adventure movies anymore. The exceptions tend to come in January, during my and my brother's birthdays. Last night I took him out to see Defiance. I don't normally see R-rated movies anymore, but the rating wasn't earned for sex but for violence, not unexpected for a current war movie. Although based on a true story, the truth is too complicated for a 2 hour movie. So it is a parable, but good nevertheless. The Nazi invasion of Poland results in genocide. Four Jewish brothers escape after their parents are killed. They end up personifying the Jewish hero of the Old Testament, David, who led a group of ruffians in the wilderness while pursued by King Saul. They struggle over how to treat the Germans and their Polish sympathizers. Other fleeing Jews join them in the forest. They trade with and steal from local farmers. One brother joins up with the Red Army partisans to resist the Germans. The movie captures the complex emotions well. The leader wants to not treat his enemies the way they are treated, yet he refuses to stop the lynching of a captured German courier. The David figure becomes a Moses figure at the end when the Nazis are pushing into the forest and the large band is forced to a marshy river. The oldest is ready to die, but a younger brother demands they push on saying the water won't part from them, but they will not give up. So they push through, only to be met by a single panzer unit which pins them down. Suddenly, the unit of the brother who had joined the Red Army flanks the unit and all the Germans die and the people are safe. It was a great ending. The best part was that eventually 1200 people lived in the forest for the next 2 years and survived the Nazis. Two of the brothers ended up in New York City running a trucking company.

On the day we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., I appreciated this other struggle for basic human rights, by the European Jews in WW2. I also appreciate seeing the struggle in trying to treat others the way one wants to be treated and leaving vengeance for the Lord. It's complicated.


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