Monday, 5 March 2012

NACKT UNTER WOLFEN/Naked Among Wolves (1963)

How true this film is I am unsure. Did communist prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp rise up and liberate the camp? My communist friend who screened this film for me says yes. According to another source it was Canadian prisoners and yet another says it was the advancing American army. Not that this spoils the film anymore than the way THE GREAT ESCAPE plays fast and loose with the actual facts. Beyond this question NAKED AMONG WOLVES seems to me to be a near perfect film that works on several levels. The core of the movie is that as the American army advanced towards Buchenwald the prisoners secreted a child in the camp, protecting him from the SS. The depiction of the camp is realistic and convincing and the treatment of the prisoners is horrendous. Despite the seriousness of the film it is not without a certain element of humour inasmuch as the various way the child is hidden reminds one of such films as THE BABY AND THE BATTLESHIP (a much inferior work). In addition to this minor comedy element the film also works in much the same way as films like the aforementioned THE GREAT ESCAPE or Billy Wilder's STALAG 17 with the battle of wits between the prisoners and their SS guards (a couple of whom would, it must be said, have been at home in ALLO, ALLO.

But the heart of the film (despite the undoubted propaganda intent) is to remind us of the evil of the nazi regime and the indomitable human spirit and bravery of some men in the face of almost unimaginable horrors. In execution I found the film almost flawless. Rating *****

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