An inept Czech peasant is torn between greed and guilt when the Nazi-backed bosses of his town appoint him “Aryan controller” of an old Jewish widow’s button shop. Humor and tragedy fuse in this scathing exploration of one cowardly man’s complicity in the horrors of a totalitarian regime.
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Fascism seen and felt from the inside. There is only a thin line separating ordinary people and ordinary monsters. Great scene: the camera is searching for Antonin Brtko's face in Rozalie Lautmann's shop, circular travellings that stop several times on Antonin who's trying to avoid the objective, to avoid us, to avoid the voice of his conscience. Highly recommended.
It's got a slow build, but it evens out to a fantastic climax. It all really pays off. Not that the time up until then is wasted of course. Even without the last few scenes, the film is a really well balanced mix of comedy, drama, and great characterization.
De l'insouciance initiale, juste troublée par quelques plans d'un train militaire qui passe et d'une ronde de prisonniers, au lugubre constat sans appel du pogrom final qui se met en place, nous suivons l'itinéraire d'un homme simple qui, d'une sage méfiance pour les ors du nouveau pouvoir, se laisse grignoter par des facilités , pour se retrouver finalement acculé vers l'innommable et la fatalité. www.cinefiches.com
Because the film’s inbuilt second half buildup to the tragic denouement feels only just adumbrated by the much more leisurely paced, darkly comic first half, I was thrown for a bit of a loop in the end, rather than incensed or saddened, but after some thought let it also be said the counterbalance between the two does provide a rather provocative dichotomy.
To be paired with Closely Watched Trains; humor 'mongst horror. On a side note, I think Criterion is due for a reissue with improved subs and some of those appreciative interviews/essays and background on the sociopolitical climate. Blu-ray, what?