Divided We Fall (Musíme Si Pomáhat) (2000)

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Released 14-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Filmographies-Crew
Gallery-Photo-24 Pictures
Theatrical Trailer-Divided We Fall
Trailer-No Man's Land; Monsoon Wedding; The Closet; All Over The Guy
Trailer-Lumumba; Kandahar; Start Up.Com
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 122:26
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jan Hrebejk
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Bolek Polívka
Csongor Kassai
Jaroslav Dusek
Anna Sisková
Jiri Pecha
Martin Huba
Simona Stasová
Vladimir Marek
Jirí Kodet
Richard Tesarík
Case Click
RPI ? Music Ales Brezina


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, It's WWII after all.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Divided We Fall (Musíme si Pomáhat) is an unusual film that finds a way to blend light-hearted comedy with a tragic storyline. Set in Czechoslovakia during the second world war, this film differs significantly from so many before it by focusing on the impact this extraordinary period in time had on some ordinary people in a small Czech village. It relays the story of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the corresponding deportation of all Jewish citizens at that time. Rather than focusing on the atrocities that were known to have occurred during this very dark period of human history, this film instead focuses on one couple, Josef (Boleslav Polivka) and Marie (Anna Sisková) as they struggle with the drama of hiding a Jewish friend from the German authorities.

    The opening credits move very quickly through the early history, efficiently setting the stage for what is to come. The feature opens in 1937 with the three main characters, Horst (Jaroslav Dusek), David (Csongor Kassai) and Josef (Boleslav Polivka) who are all obviously friends, playing practical jokes on each other pre the German invasion. This quickly moves on to 1939 where we see the Nazi’s first moving in to occupy the small town and the start of the persecution of the local Jewish community. Moving on to 1941, David forms the last of the Jews who are forced to leave and join the rest of his Jewish community in the Polish resettlement camps. The film then truly starts in 1943 with David returning home to collect his hidden jewellery and valuables after escaping from the Theresienstadt transfer station.

    Josef discovers David and warns him that he is not safe from the Germans where he is hiding and kindly, but somewhat impulsively, offers to help him hide indefinitely in a special makeshift shelter/pantry which was common in many homes of that era. This decision is the focus of the film and the interactions between the primary characters of Josef, Marie, David and their old friend Horst who, under pressure from his wife, has become an active Nazi sympathizer that often visits unannounced causing immense pressures on the couple. Then, as Horst starts to develop a strong attraction for Marie, the risks of discovery and the repercussions of certain decisions start to really turn the pressure on. Finally, in order to stop the incessant and dangerous visits, Josef agrees to come to work for the German authorities with Horst.

    As time progresses, Horst and Josef become further ostracised from their own local community, being seen as nothing more than Nazi collaborators, although you know that neither one really wants to be where they currently are. It becomes almost impossible to tell how much they can trust each other as Horst becomes more suspicious and Marie begins to distrust the neighbours. Everywhere they turn, people are not who or what they seem to be and yet everyone is putting on masks to protect their true beliefs and identities. As time marches on and the occupation comes to an end with the US invasion forces, these facades are eventually torn down and everyone is put to the test. In the end all the relationships of the original three men are put to one final test as “United they stand” and “Divided they fall”. Will each character have the courage to stand up and save the other and ultimately save all of them? Each one is faced with an important choice to, at great risk, support the others.

    Although this is a light-hearted film, it has a very complex and clever storyline, with many twists, turns and surprises and plenty of little things that only get noticed the second or third time around. The acting is incredibly natural, the story is engaging, enjoyable and tangible and the directing is a pleasurable change from the standard Hollywood formula. In closing, Divided We Fall (Musíme si Pomáhat) is recommended viewing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    For the most part the image quality is quite acceptable, failing only in two major respects: (a) The brightness levels were not at all balanced with many scenes ending up being washed out by external lighting sources when present and (b) there were periods, mostly in the night shots, where the director filmed at twelve frames per second instead of the usual twenty-four, resulting in a strobing type effect (96:05). In addition, the continuous presence of interlaced frames throughout implies that this is mastered from an intermediate video source.

    The main feature is presented at an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. Seeing no evidence to the contrary I assume this is the correct aspect ratio.

    When the camera was in focus (28:24 is a good example where it is not), the image was very sharp and detailed and was affected, marginally, by some film grain (22:41 is the most obvious). The black levels were variable, ranging from being very good to quite poor depending on which mode the director was shooting in; 12 or 24 fps. At the positive end of the scale, both the black levels and the shadow details can be extremely good (6:13, 30:37 are examples), whilst at the negative end of the scale the black levels become more a dark grey and the shadow details are lost entirely (0:46, 16:22, 52:13 are good examples). In complete contrast (pun intended), the white levels were consistently poor, causing many backgrounds to be overbright (0:48, 2:00, 64:04, 67:29), at times washing out details on faces (10:28, 18:57) and finally washing out entire scenes (19:23, 47:08, 96:39, 104:58, 108:25, 109:56, 115:01 are amongst the worst offenders).

    The palette appears to be deliberately restrained and as a result has a very natural feel about it. There was little opportunity for the use of bright, saturated colours in this feature. There are a few sections where the red appeared oversaturated, such as at 45:51, causing faces to look somewhat sunburnt.

    There are no MPEG artefacts evident, and the few cases where I thought posterization was occurring turned out to be natural shadowing. Apart from interlacing which is evident throughout, there are very few other film-to-video artefacts present, although during the 12 frames per second sections an aliasing-like artefact appears, primarily as a result of the slow interlacing effect and movement onscreen (101:41, 102:40 are excellent examples).

    There are some relatively annoying film artefacts present including black smudges and marks (5:48, 9:22), plenty of minor film flecks (15:00, 63:15, 95:57, 98:51) and the periodic occurrence of reel change markers (10:12, 10:20, 30:13, 68:34, 68:42, 87:19, 107:45, 107:52) in the form of black squares and circles in the upper right corner.

    Being a foreign language film, I relied on the subtitles to relay the story to me. I can only assume that they were mostly accurate; at least they made sense. The only complaint I have about them is that at times the yellow font chosen was hard to read against some backgrounds.

    This disc is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 67:53. The change is reasonably well placed between both scenes and audio activity, and passes almost unnoticed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This audio track primarily focuses the dialogue to the front of the soundstage, reserving the surrounds and subwoofer to provide infrequent ambience to the music and effect to the action sequences.

    There is only one soundtrack on this disc, that being a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort in the title's original language, Czechoslovakian, which I listened to whilst reading the English subtitles.

    Not that I understood a single word of it, but the dialogue sounded clear and distinct at all times. There was one moment where I felt the sound placement was inappropriate at 14:50 when Marie laughs, loudly, in the left speaker.

    The music by Aleš Brezina is very helpful at breaking up the more serious undertones of the film and is often used to provide some mild comic relief in a much more subtle way than Hollywood seems to be able to achieve. There is one song with lyrics, which is almost haunting as it plays in the background whilst David remembers everything that he has lost.

    The surrounds are used sparingly but well to provide heavy ambience for both the action, such as sounds echoing in the empty streets or bullets ricocheting off walls, and the music score which helps to carry the themes of the film and to lighten the atmosphere whenever it begins to feel too heavy and draining. In between, however, they were silent.

    The subwoofer woke up every now and then to lend some support whenever an explosion or something required a bass kick – which wasn’t very often.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu

    The main menu is very simple, easy to navigate and is supported by some very appropriate opera style music to set the theme.

Filmography

    A short (very short) list of the various films by Director Jan Hrebejk which covers 1991 up to 2002.

Photo Gallery

    24 Photos. Various good quality, but far too small shots taken from the film. The small size limits their value significantly.

Trailers

    Various trailers for Madman films including:

    These are all presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0, non 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is also available in R2 and R1. From various reviews on the 'net, the R1 may have a slightly better image quality than ours, but is lacking a few extras. The comparative situation can be summarised as follows:

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on:

    The Region 2 version of this DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on:

    There is really not a lot in it, so I'll call it even.

Summary

    Divided We Fall is a refreshingly different story on a reasonably presented DVD.

    The video quality is very good except for some brightness problems.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are marginal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael S Cox (to bio, or not to bio?)
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplayJVC Interiart Flat 68cm Display 16:9. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3802
SpeakersFront LR - NEAR MainMast, Center - NEAR 20M, Surround LR - NEAR Spinnaker DiPoles, Rear LR - NEAR MainMast-II, Subwoofer - NEAR PS-2 DiPole

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Jeff K

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