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  Auschwitz Escape, The Get The Message
Year: 2021
Director: Peter Bebjak
Stars: Noel Czuczor, Peter Ondrejicka, John Hannah, Wojciech Mecwaldowski, Jacek Beler, Michal Rezny, Kamil Nozynski, Aleksander Mincer, Christoph Bach, Ksawery Szlenkier, Florian Panzner, Lars Rudolph, David Zimmerschied, Ondrej Maly
Genre: Thriller, War, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: 1944 in Poland, and in the Nazi camp of Auschwitz the outside world is not really aware of what the reality of places like this is, having been assured by the German government that these are sites of relocation and internment, nothing more, and any figures about high death rates there are purely down to disease outbreaks such as typhoid. But for the prisoners, they see only too clearly what it happening: the Nazis have built gas chambers to slaughter vast numbers of Jews and other minorities, as well as those judged to be problematic towards their cause. The outside world needs to know. And as quickly as possible.

After all, lives are at stake, and we are now painfully aware that despite being implored to bomb these camps no such action was taken by the Allies. This could have rendered the central premise of this Slovakian film (a European co-production, in effect) somewhat futile when the two lead characters are determined to escape the camp and get the word out about the nightmare that is unfolding during supposedly civilised times. But while that may have crossed your mind, that did not mean you did not want them both to get away and succeed in their mission even in light of the fact the camps were not destroyed.

The film, also known as The Auschwitz Report, was drawn from the war memoir of Alfred Wetzler, who was played by Noel Czuczor here, which detailed both the experiences of living through the camps and his escape along with his friend Valer (Peter Ondrejicka). When you are aware of that provenance, perhaps there were no real surprises in the script and its storyline, but thanks to Peter Bebjak's tense direction this did adopt the style of a wartime thriller, think the men on a mission World War II adventures that proliferated even as propaganda during those years and you would have some idea of the methods the director employed.

This crafted a piece that was both intended to be exciting as you watch Freddy and Valer's close calls in a smartly devised, but simple, plan to flee with the report detailing the mass deaths and crimes against humanity, but also educational, for the troubling fact remained this far after the atrocities there were not only those who would deny the Holocaust and death camps ever existed, but also those who would seek to capitalise upon division for political gain. The present of the twenty-first century was very much in the forefront of what we were intended to consider while watching, with this era's fake news compared with the Nazis' obfuscation of the truth of their crimes. Yet how did we know the film was trying to be contemporary?

It would have been chilling enough to allude to the mass murder, and we do not see a lot of it in this - the camera does not follow the victims into the gas chambers, we merely hear about what has happened - but by a trick Bebjar used when we though the film was over, the message was starkly brought home. Over the end credits he has assembled a collection of soundbites and extracts of speeches from nationalist politicians and would-be statesmen and women who seek to demonise one group to ensure the votes of the population who are made to feel under threat from those groups, be they Jews, refugees, or hated neighbouring countries, homosexuals too, for that matter. Anyone who can be conveniently scapegoated quite apart from any facts will be, and we should beware of the Holocaust's warning from history. Back at the body of the film, there was one extended shot of Red Cross man John Hannah gradually realising what has been committed at the camps that made it clear why Slovakia submitted this one to the Oscars. But awards aside, if it was too brief to go into the closer details, it did make its point with skill. Music by Mario Schneider.

[Signature Entertainment presents The Auschwitz Escape on Digital Platforms 14th May & DVD 24th May 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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