Although both look and subject matter are familiar - from Mephisto and The Tin Drum - Agnieska Holland's war story is all the more unsettling for being true. Salomon Perel (Hofschneider) is a young German Jew who flees eastwards as the Nazis move in. Fate ensures his survival by landing him first in a Soviet Komsomol school, where he learns to be a fervent young Stalinist, then in a German front-line detachment where he passes as the flower of pure Aryan youth. Enrolled in an élite Hitler Youth academy, he falls for lovely Jew-hating Leni (Delpy); but by this point the effort of hiding behind so many masks, not to mention hiding the most physical evidence of his Jewishness, is beginning to take its toll... The story is so absurd that it could have made a grotesque historical burlesque of the Günter Grass variety. Holland takes a more prosaic approach, but the ironies bite hard, and occasional farcical moments add an unsettling edge to Perel's fortunes. Holland plays on the paradox of role-playing with moderation, but the moral uncertainties of Perel's survival are no less dizzying for all that.
Cast and crew