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August 24, 2016

Anthropoid — the movie, now showing in a few select theaters

Filed under: Germany, movies, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:47 am

There is a new movie, about the story of Reinhard Heinrich, which I am dying to see, but it is not showing in any of the theaters anywhere near me. The movie is based on Operation Anthropoid, a famous historical event that took place years ago.

Reinhard Heydrichh is the man in the middle

Reinhard Heydrich is the man in the center

Reinhard Heydrich was noted for having a feminine type body with hips wider than his shoulders, as depicted in the photo above.

Heydrich is also noted for having had two girlfriends at the same time, and for getting one of them pregnant, then refusing to marry her. However, none of this is pointed out in the movie. Would it have killed the producer of this movie to have included a little bit of human interest?

You can read a review of the movie at http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/anthropoid-2016

The following quote is from the review, cited above:

Begin quote

The events [in the movie] take place in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in the early 1940s. As students of World War II should know—well, as anyone should know, really, but let’s not get into that—Czechoslovakia was for all intents and purposes handed over to Germany in 1939, which gave Hitler access to a wealth of natural resources and manufacturing power to fuel the German war machine which then went on to conquer Poland and put the Second World War into active motion.

The SS was terribly efficient in quashing the Czechoslovakian resistance movement, but a Czech government in absentia kept up the effort, and in late 1941 it flew a plane from England and dispatched parachutists to drop outside of Prague, where they were to begin a daring and divisive mission.

The movie begins by following two parachutists, Jan (Jamie Dornan) and Josef (Cillian Murphy). Josef cuts his foot badly on the way down and needs some stitching up. Contemporary movies like to signal their integrity and/or authenticity by including graphic scenes depicting the suturing of icky wounds, and this one is no exception.

The duo’s bad luck continues, as they are sniffed out and then nearly sold out by a couple of quasi-quisling farm folk. And then, once they get to Prague and make their contacts, the remnants of the Czechoslovakian resistance with whom they have to work are in large part appalled by the mission they’ve come to carry out.

That is, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, engineer of the Final Solution and the iron fist personally dispatched by Hitler to crush resistance, a man nicknamed “the Butcher of Prague.” 

Local resistance leader Ladislav (Marcin Dorocinski) balks, while suitably avuncular cohort “Uncle” Hajsky (Toby Jones) counsels cooperation. Jan and Josef shack up with a local family, establish covers in part by romancing a couple of local women, and start doing recon to determine the pattern of Heydrich’s comings and goings.

So here’s where the spoiler question comes in: do these heroes pull it off? Well, the answer to that is part of the historical record, and yet, who knows. Some folks might want to go into this movie blind, or semi-blind, or what have you. For myself, I found the picture a frustrating experience. It is cast with largely British actors, which is fine, but it does not follow what I now consider the anachronistic convention of having them speak with their native accents; rather, Ellis makes the performers speak English in heavy Czech, or “Czech” accents—I don’t have the ear to make a pronouncement as to how accurate they are, although all the actors are dedicated and expert professionals. In any event, this strategy kind of made me yearn for the anachronistic practice, which at least had a kind of inherent consistency. I also found the movie’s style off-putting. It’s shot in widescreen format, about a 2.35 ratio, but almost all of the shots are handheld. A lot of the time the experience of the movie is like looking at a very long wobbly rectangle, and the frequently abrupt cutting doesn’t help. The tighter the aspect ratio, the more effective the hand-held, or simulated hand-held, camerawork is, I’ve found. The movie’s scenario also trucks in a variety of clichés. And, near the end, at least one mistaken, overstated metaphor.

End quote

When I visited Prague, years ago, I took a guided tour, which included a stop at the hairpin curve where Heydrich’s car was forced to slow down. He was fatally wounded on this corner, but not before he jumped out of the car and began firing his gun.

The hairpin turn where Heydrich was ambused, his car can be seen on the left.jpg

The photo above shows the hairpin turn where Heydrich’s car was forced to slow down; this is where he was fatally wounded. This is what the curve looks like today.

To some people, Heydrich is a hero, but to others, he can never be a hero because of the way that he treated women. Getting a girl pregnant, and then not marrying her, was unknown in Germany back then.