In Case You Missed It

Stay alive, no matter the cost.  That is the order Salomon Perel is given by his father.  And so begins Europa, Europa, a fantastic World War II movie from 1990.

Europa, Europa follows the story of Salomon, a Jewish teenager living in pre-war Nazi Germany.  His family leaves the country, fearing for their safety and end up in Poland.  Which, if you know anything about World War II, that’s essentially like jumping out of the frying pan, and into a fire that’s about to start.

When the Nazis invade Poland, he is separated from his parents.  The last command his father gives him is to stay alive, no matter what he has to do.  Saloman (or Solly) takes his father’s words to heart, and in the process does some remarkable things.  From being educated in a Soviet school to joining the Nazi Army and all points in between, Solly has an incredible journey through the landscape of World War II.

I found Europa, Europa very insightful.  The film gives an interesting glimpse into aspects of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that we don’t usually get to see in a movie.  It’s a fascinating story made even more intriguing by the fact that it’s based on a true story.  As with all movies “based on a true story”, I’m sure there are many inaccuracies and embellishments, but that goes without saying.

Apparently, the film was not well thought of in Germany when it was initially released.  However, it was fairly well received by American audiences following it’s US release.  It won the Academy Award for “Best Adapted Screenplay” (it was originally an autobiography by the REAL Salomon Perel), and also won a Golden Globe for “Best Foreign Language Film”.

Notice I just used the phrase “foreign language film”.  That’s right, Europa, Europa was released in German, with only subtitles to help out those of us who only speak English.  So, if you’re afraid of a little reading, then this one’s not for you.

Since all of the dialogue was in German and Russian, it’s difficult for me to comment on the acting performances.  However, there’s more to acting than just speaking.  And I would have to say that the lead actor, Marco Hofschneider does an incredible job of conveying the emotion and conflict within his character.

His emotional turmoil is at the very heart of this movie.  Even though Solly is Jewish, he was raised German.  He has a love for his country and feels pride in helping defend it against the Soviets.  Yet, at the same time, he feels the shame and guilt of serving those who were butchering his people, while hiding his true identity.

I will offer a word of warning.  This film does contain some disturbing images.  Mainly, male nudity.  The scenes pass quickly, but I realize that most people are much less comfortable with seeing the male anatomy on screen, than they are with a pair of breasts… so, I thought I would mention it.

Europa, Europa is one of the smartest war movies I have seen in quite some time.  So, if you are a fan of the genre, have an interest in World War II, or perhaps enjoy foreign films, I highly recommend this one.
Title: Europa, Europa (German title: Salomon, Hitler Junge)
Year: 1990
Rating: R
Advisories: Brief nudity (male), war violence
Running Time: 107 minutes