Wednesday, October 14, 2009

History in Film: Defiance

Set in Poland in World War II, Defiance depicts the exploits of the Bielski Brothers and how they saved the lives of over 1,200 Jews from the concentration camps of Hitler and the German Army. The Bielski Brothers, led by Tuvia and Zus, fled to the forests for protection from the invading Germans. While there they came across more Jews fleeing into the forest for protection with little food and no shelter. Tuvia, played by Daniel Craig, decides it is up to them to led and protect these people; helping them to provided shelter, scavenger for food, and seek out weapons. Despite disagreements with his brother Zus, the brothers helped in bringing the people together and creating a community. Many of the supplies that they received were either voluntarily or by force from nearby towns and villages. The Bielski's formed, along with many others in the region, a partisan group which were basically small military style groups that fought against the Germans. These resistance groups, like the Bielski Partisans, would not face Germany armies but rather engaged in guerrilla warfare and sabotage against the Nazis and aiding the Soviet army when needed.

The historical accuracy of the film is on par for being a Hollywood production. The Bielski brothers did exist and they did led over a thousand Jews into forming a protective community within the Naliboki Forest in the Belarussia region. However like most Hollywood movies some creative license was taken. The fact that these people were Polish was difficult to ascertain. For the majority of the movie you believe these Jewish exiles are Russian. I believe their connection to their descent, both Polish and Jewish, play a much bigger role in the story than was depicted in the movie. From accounts that I have read the Bielski partisan never actually encountered German tanks or heavy infintry which you see in a climatic scene near the end. Despite being an entertaining portion of the movie it is more than likely untrue.

Aside from Daniel Craig's inability to maintain his Eastern European accent at times he did a fantastic job at depicting the turmoil of being maintain control of the community as well as his fear for the lives of himself and the people around him. The weight of leadership shows itself on numerous occasions but Tuvia does everything he can to not show that. In addition, the idea conveyed that the Bielski Partisan was a righteous group of freedom fighters is a little skewd. Although the brothers themselves are not believed to have been involved the Bielski Partisan itself has been connected to a possible massacre of 129 women and children in the village of Naliboki. An investigation has been going over the last 8 years but nothing definitive has been released on the matter(1). Without having read either of the two major works on the Bielksi Brothers by Tec (1993) and Duffy (2004), I am unable to give a definitive analysis of the historical details of the movie. Overall I enjoyed the movie, learned something, and would recommend it to others.

Entertainment Rating - 3.5 out of 5
Historical Value - 3 out of 5


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