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Review of The Invisibles to be shown at the Wpg International Jewish Film Festival - a film about Holocaust survivors and righteous Gentiles

April 26, 2018

Reviewed by jane Enkin


Docudrama The Invisibles opens the world of an inspiring group of people through the stories of four individuals. Amazingly, after deportations of Jews were considered complete in WW II Germany, several thousand Jews remained in the country in hiding. Film-makers Claus Rafle and Alejandra Lopez interviewed four survivors in the early 2000s. We hear them tell their own stories and watch dramatizations of their young selves and the people around them.


The contrast between the interviews and dramatizations is fascinating. The dramatizations of hiding in cupboards and dark streets and of “passing” as Germans are incredibly tense, powerful in their pain and passion. Extraordinary coincidences and events, some that might seem implausible in a fiction film, are all part of the stories. Even though we know these four people survived, great internal suspense builds in each scene.


The elderly interview subjects are relaxed and charming, sweet and witty. “We always found something to laugh about,” says one. A man who forged passports and saved many lives says about the terrible risk he took, “It was exciting. Work had never been more fun for me.” If you can listen to the narration while following the captions, you'll hear lines like this one: “I never doubted I'd get out of this shlmazel.”


The narrators and the young actors who portray them are deeply appealing. Their stories remain front and centre, and their ways of hiding are quite different from one another. Each might have made a fine dramatic film on its own, but it's very satisfying to hear the voices of all four interviewees.


Beyond the dramatizations and the interviews, a third startling layer of the film is a selection of archival footage. The black and white scenes of wartime archival footage, the dramatically lit scenes of hiding, and the sunny, bright surroundings of the interviews contrast beautifully.


The Invisibles is as much a film about righteous gentiles as survivors. German resistors and ordinary people who put their lives at risk out of simple decency are celebrated. There is a strong focus on the many, many Germans who helped the four young people get by during harrowing times in Berlin. “Four people in a two-room apartment,” says one amazed interviewee, “Two rooms. And still they took me in.”

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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