the review site with a difference since 1999
Reviews Interviews Articles Apps About

Columbia TriStar Home Video presents

Divided We Fall (2000)

"I'm helping decent people. Is that a sin?"- Horst Prohaska (Jaroslav Dusek)

Stars: Boleslav Polivka, Anna Siskova, Csongor Kassai, Jaroslav Dusek
Other Stars: Jiri Pecha, Simona Stasova, Martin Huba, Jiri Kodet, Vladimir Marek, Richard Tesarik
Director: Jan Hrebejk

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and sexual content
Run Time: 02h:02m:23s
Release Date: 2001-11-27
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-B+B+ D+


DVD Review

Amid the paranoid and depressing landscape of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, Josef and Marie Cizkova (Boleslav Polivka and Anna Siskova) face the increasing pressures of daily life. Spurred by a chance meeting with young David Wiener (Csongor Kassai), a former neighbor, the couple decides to hide the jewish man from certain death. In order to avoid suspicion, Josef takes a job with local Nazis and associates socially with several leaders. This gives him trouble from the other side, as the resistance now views him as a Nazi sympathizer. These difficult contradictions spring everywhere in Divided We Fall—an intriguing story that offers several original viewpoints on distressing times during World War II.

Although it initially appears to mirror the typical World War II tale of a family hiding jews from the Nazis, this film contains much more depth and significance than the average version. The characters possess individual qualities that render them much different than the usual cliché. Josef and Marie are not perfect do-gooders who are willing to sacrifice themselves to fight Nazi tyranny. Their actions are admirable, but they do not come without significant turmoil over their decisions. David is a shell-shocked person who has lost much of his energy from witnessing the horrors of the concentration camps. With his family probably all dead, he still retains his will to live and his humanity despite the horrible conditions.

This film does provide a grand look at the difficulties encountered in Europe in 1943, but it's more directly an intimate story about a husband and wife. Their inability to have children obviously haunts Marie, and in a sense replaces her desired role as a mother by closely helping David. Although Josef faces trouble by appearing in public with the Nazis, she faces her own struggles alone in the house. Much of the problems stem from Horst Prohaska (Jaroslav Dusek), a local resident who has decided to help the Nazis. Apparently smitten with Marie, he stops by the house constantly and spends time with the couple. While the peculiar Horst initially is an abhorrent character with disturbing goals, he eventually shows a kinder side. A revelation surprisingly effective and made satisfying later on.

Divided We Fall succeeds mostly due to the remarkable, subtle performances from a small group of talented actors. Siskova brings a charming strength to Marie and makes all of her emotions realistic and understandable. Polivka appears to be an unlikely choice for the lead role, but his performance carries the story. In the supporting roles, Dusek exhibits tremendous complexity in making Horst both pitiable and scary at the same time. There's also an impressive job from Martin Huba in the small role of Nazi Dr. Albrecht Kepk. Although his character states horrible ideas, his plight is still tragic and emotionally distressing.

Writer-director Jan Hrebejk (Peliska) keeps the camera work pretty simple and avoids falling into the trap of overplaying the drama. Instead, he allows the characters to create the intensity with very few awkward moments. There are several nice moments of tension where the action becomes slightly blurry and frenetic. This assists Hrebejk in quickly altering the slow atmosphere and generating interesting drama. Even the heart-pounding finale remains fairly stable and does not leap off the charts with crazy direction. This solidity helps the events to remain realistic and leads to a touching story.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: This disc features a 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer that nicely conveys Jan Hrebejk's claustrophobic atmosphere caused by the war. The colors are very sharp and help to convey the difficult nature of the situations faced in Czechoslovakia. There is a minor level of grain that pervades the screen several times and leads to a less-than-pristine picture. This is especially true during the night scenes, which are a little too hazy and unclear. However, the overall presentation works impressively and provides well-done images throughout the feature.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Czechyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: It is refreshing to see a relatively unknown foreign film receive a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer, which is pretty rare. This track utilizes the rear speakers to bring us closely into the house. Sounds reverberate from all ends of the sound field, and this increases the interest in the plight of the lead characters. The dialogue is clearly stated, and the score excudes plenty of force to create the proper emotional context. Although this transfer uses the rear speakers, it would have been helped by a greater level of complexity. This ranks as a solid digital track, but it falls short of the best ones due to its lack of a wider sound field. This disc also contains a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround version, which also effectively conveys the tense story.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Anne Frank Remembered
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This disc contains a brief filmography for director Jan Hrebejk and theatrical trailers for the film and Anne Frank Remembered. The Divided We Fall preview comes in a grainy full-frame version, while the documentary offers a 1.85:1 widescreen format.

Extras Grade: D+

Final Comments

Upon its original release in 2000, Divided We Fall received plenty of adulation from the international film community, including an Academy Award ® nomination for Best Foreign Film and the "Most Popular Film" award at the Vancouver International Film Festival. However, it failed to appear in many theaters around the country and was lost in the shuffle. Hopefully the DVD release will earn this gem even greater respect from audiences.

Dan Heaton 2002-01-23