THE WARSAW GHETTO aka THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER. (2009) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

sendler 1-fullTHE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER aka THE WARSAW GHETTO. (2009) DIRECTED BY JOHN KENT HARRISON. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE MOTHER OF THE HOLOCAUST CHILDREN’ BY ANNA MIESZKOWSKA.

STARRING ANNA PAQUIN, MARCIA GAY HARDEN, GORAN VISNJIC AND STEVE SPEIRS. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a surprisingly good made-for-television movie about one of the darkest periods in human history, the Holocaust, and one of the landscapes where the Holocaust took place, the Warsaw Ghetto. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were hounded and hunted into an area of German-occupied Poland, ie, this ghetto, that was too small for their huge numbers and where disease and starvation flourished.

It was from this infamous space that thousands of Jews were shoved onto cattle trucks and trains and sent off for so-called ‘re-settlement in the East,’ which we of course know now meant death by gassing in Treblinka or the other death camps.

This film has been likened to Steven Spielberg’s SCHINDLER’S LIST but in reality, it doesn’t come close to capturing the life of chaos, terror, deprivation and random executions that the Jews lived in this hell-hole. It does try hard, however, and I found it both entertaining and enjoyable, if one could ever be said to ‘enjoy’ a film about such a grim subject.

Anna Paquin seems to have recovered by now from the trauma of starring in a film which saw a naked Harvey Keitel being the direct cause of Paquin’s screen mother Holly Hunter having one of her fingers chopped off by an enraged and hearetbroken Sam Neill.

That’s Jane Campion’s exquisite film THE PIANO I’m referring to here, of course. Anna Paquin is now known for getting her own kit off as well in the hugely successful- and sexy!- HBO vampire drama TRUE BLOOD.

 THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER, based on a true story, sees Anna Paquin playing a real-life Polish social worker who safely smuggled 2, 500 children out of the accursed Warsaw Ghetto during World War Two.

Her invalid mother is played in a nice understated way by Marcia Gay Harden, who once portrayed a religious nut trapped in a supermarket in the excellent film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, THE MIST.

Anyway, Irena is appalled at the sheer scale of the suffering in the Ghetto. With several families crammed into the one room, with limited food and sanitation facilities, many Jews began to take on a gaunt and bedraggled-looking physical appearance.

This suited the Germans down to the ground, of course, as it only helped to perpetuate the myth that the Jews were dirty, lice-ridden creatures ripe with disease who should be exterminated like vermin.

In fact, typhus was one of the perils Irena had to face as she went into the Ghetto time and time again and came out with small children whom she placed with Polish families for ‘safe-keeping,’ as it were. The distress of the mothers who are having to part with their precious children in order to better ensure a future for them is shown very realistically here.

Stefan, Irena’s handsome dark-haired Jewish boyfriend and partner-in-crime, as it were, looks like Phil Dunphy from TV sitcom MODERN FAMILY. I’m just saying, haha. I loved Piotr, her big burly helper who shared the risks and the burden equally with Irena. I sure could use someone like him to muck in around the house.

I wonder if he survived the war, and how many of the children did as well? Have there ever been any reunions of the children saved by Irena Sendler, like we know there have been of the people now known as ‘Schindler’s Jews?’ It’d certainly be interesting to find out.

The bit where Irena is taken by the Gestapo and tortured is flippin’ terrifying, the tensest and scariest part of the whole film. The film is billed as a 12s, but I wouldn’t show those scenes to a twelve-year-old, especially if they’re in any way sensitive in nature.

This film, light on Nazis and concentrating mainly on Irena’s mission and the kiddies she saved, is an excellent tribute to the woman who smuggled so many children to safety right under the very noses of the leather-coated and jackbooted Gestapo.

The real-life Irena, who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 when she was actually still alive, appears in person for a moment at the end of the film talking about those long-ago but still relevant days, which is a lovely touch.

It might be a movie spoiler to say that our heroine went on to live a long and hopefully happy life after that terrible period in history was over, but if anyone ever deserved to, it was surely Irena Sendler. The film adds another layer, as it were, to our knowledge of what went on in German-occupied countries during the war and, for that alone if for nothing else, it’s worth watching.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and ZULU: A DUO OF SUPERB WAR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and ZULU: A DUO OF SUPERB EPIC WAR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. (1957) BASED ON THE 1952 BOOK BY PIERRE BOULLE. DIRECTED BY DAVID LEAN. STARRING ALEC GUINNESS, JACK HAWKINS, WILLIAM HOLDEN, JAMES DONALD, GEOFFREY HORNE AND SESSUE HAYAKAWA.

ZULU. (1964) DIRECTED, CO-PRODUCED AND CO-WRITTEN BY CY ENDFIELD. STARRING STANLEY BAKER, MICHAEL CAINE, JACK HAWKINS, ULLA JACOBSSON, NIGEL GREEN, PATRICK MAGEE, JAMES BOOTH AND CHIEF BUTHELEZI. NARRATION BY RICHARD BURTON.

These are undoubtedly two of the best war films that have ever been made. I’ve loved ’em both since I first clapped eyes on them and I’m thrilled to be reviewing them together like this.

Starring some of the finest actors in cinema history, they’ve won a ton of awards between them and are always featuring on lists detailing the best films of all time. There are quite a few similarities between them as well, as it happens. Let’s take a closer look at both movies, shall we, and see what we make of ’em…

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI tells the story (fictional, but based on some fact) of a large group of British soldiers who are taken prisoner by the Japanese during WW2. They are sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Burma and forced to build the titular bridge which will connect Bangkok and Rangoon when it is completed.

ZULU is a dramatisation of an actual battle, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, that took place between British soldiers and the massive Zulu army in early 1879 in Natal. It was during the Anglo-Zulu War that it happened. In the film, the same Zulus have just massacred large numbers of the British force at the Battle of Isandlwana.

Now they’re coming for the one-hundred-and-fifty of Her Majesty’s soldiers, many of them injured and in the sick bay, who currently occupy the little missionary station at Rorke’s Drift. The odds against the British soldiers are impossible. They’re dead men walking now, surely…?

Both films portray the British soldiers as courageous hard workers who keep a stiff upper lip at all times and never abandon their principles. They’re true Englishmen, after all, from a civilised country where people drink a nice cup of tea and read the morning paper unhurriedly regardless of the situation. It’s a good way to be, eh what, chaps?

Alec Guinness’s stiff upper lip as Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI nearly gets him killed. He clashes with Colonel Saito, the man in charge of the Japanese prison camp, over a rather piddling matter of principle for which he’s (Nicholson) clearly prepared to die.

It’s almost a huge relief when eventually the equally stubborn pair put aside their differences and decide, for their mutual benefit, to build the best damn bridge they’re capable of creating between them.

Michael Caine is superb in ZULU as the posh privileged army officer with the fancy toff’s name of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. He comes from a family of army royalty and initially looks down on Stanley Baker’s Lieutenant Chard.

Chard is an engineer who, incidentally, is busily- and sweatily!- engaged in building a bridge when Bromhead swans up on his horse, as cool as the proverbial cucumber. What is it with army men and their little bridges…? The two men quickly learn to work together, however, when those pesky Zulus start swarming over the horizon…

Although my favourite characters from THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI are those of Nicholson and Colonel Saito, William Holden is top-notch too as the American prisoner-of-war, Commander Shears. He daringly escapes from the impossible-to-escape-from prison camp and then is horrified when he’s asked to go back there by Jack Hawkins as the English Major Warden, who has orders to blow up the bridge that his fellow Englishman Nicholson has so lovingly created. Blow up the bridge? Jolly good show, chaps. Jolly good show…!

Actor Jack Hawkins is another feature that both films have in common. He also stars in ZULU as the rather naïve Swedish missionary Otto Witt, father to the beautiful Ulla Jacobsson’s Margareta and a man who’s partial to a bit of a tipple.

I love when that fine South African-born British character actor Nigel Green (COUNTESS DRACULA with Ingrid Pitt) as the exceptionally stiff-upper-lipped Colour Sergeant Bourne tells the drunken Otto Witt to ‘quiet down now sir, there’s a good gentleman, you’re scaring the lads…!’

Nigel Green gets another great line when a green and terrified young soldier says to him as they quietly wait to be overrun by Zulus: ‘Why us, Sarge?’ Not turning a hair, the splendidly-moustached Colour Sergeant Bourne replies: ‘Because we’re here, lad. Because we’re here…’

In a nice touch of authenticity, the real-life Chief Buthelezi plays his own great-grandfather, the Zulu King Cetshwayo, in the film. Also, a lot of singing talent is on show here as the Zulus take on the Welsh soldiers in the regiment in a sort of THE VOICE OF WALES X FACTOR MEETS ZULU’S GOT TALENT type of thing so be sure and buy the soundtrack…!

There are lots of terrific actors in minor roles in both films too, such as James Donald as the infinitely civilised and reasonable but also pragmatic Major Clipton in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and another James, this time James Booth, from ZULU. He plays the malingerer Private Henry Hook, the guy with the bad attitude who rather surprisingly ends up winning an award for bravery along with no small number of his colleagues.

These are two cracking war films that’ll make great viewing if you were to watch ’em back-to-back some lazy Saturday afternoon, like I’ve just done myself. Don’t forget to maintain that stiff upper lip throughout, though, and keep a tight rein on any tears that might threaten to fall during your viewing of this truly smashing and emotional double-feature.

It’s just not the done thing to sob and sniffle like hysterical women in front of the ranks, you know. As to what exactly constitutes the done thing, well, you know what, old boy? In the words of a certain Colonel Nicholson: ‘I haven’t the foggiest…!’

Zulu-Screencap-michael-caine-2662240-500-289

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor