At the beginning of the story Lidice is just one of many small Czech villages trying to survive the war as best as it can. Day-to-day existence within the Protectorate flows along almost serenely and the biggest upheaval is a pub brawl where by accident a drunk father kills his own son. The crime is justly punished and the poor wretch íma starts his sentence. But thanks to this he, alone, survives his family as well as his entire village which becomes the scapegoat for the assassination of Heydrich. The tale of this deeply paradoxical hero is full of contradictions yet remains truly human and forms the spine of the whole film.
íma is the father of two sons and is not a bad father by any means. His wife, Aneka, became
paralysed a long time ago and íma deals with the situation pragmatically by taking care of the family but, meantimes, engaging for many years in another relationship. The entire village takes it as a muted fact of life. Aneka seems resigned to her fate, íma´s lover too, only the elder of íma´s sons seems unable to accept his father´s double life. In a drunken brawl, when the younger íma attacks his father, an extremely unforunate set of circumstances see father kill his son and the family´s destiny takes on almost classical tragedy proportions.
Whilst Aneka and the younger son have to come to terms with the loss of of a son and brother (as well as the family´s breadwinner), íma himself is going through an internalised struggle in trying to accept his own guilt and in searching for a way back to the family´s acceptance which he believes he has lost for ever. One sees though that the binding basic bonds are able to survive even such a tragedy. And so with every reticent visit of his younger son or a small package form Aneka íma is able to begin to nurture hope that his family have not given up on him completely and he will have somewhere and, above all, to somebody to return to.
Life in the village passes by, the tragedy is forgotten and folk yet again turn their attention to their own struggles and the war. The gossip about the partisans in the forests, about the brave pilots in England (the stress being on these as two of Lidice´s young men have joined up there and local citizens are proud of them), they all spout their theories how things will turn out. Meanwhile, new babies are born, people die, the young fall in love and amongst these is a couple whose romance becomes fateful for the whole village.
Pepa Fiala, already married but remaining more like a starry-eyed lad than a grown man,
falls in love with the young Annie. As part and parcel of his courting (which is rather complicated owing to his situation, his family duties and the fact that he cannot be readily at hand, above all publicly, for Annie) he covers up with an imaginary partisan conspiratorial role. That itself puts him in an even better light as far as Annie is concerned and the whole affair could end like any run-of-the-mill love affair were it not for one of Pepa´s letters to Annie, where he alludes to his secret mission, getting into the wrong hands at the wrong time. The times are truly inappropriate for such play-acting. Just then an assassination had been carried out on Heydrich. Someone must be punished. Quickly. As an exemplary warning. For the whole world to remember. The point is not to find the real culprit. The point is to find a suitable sacrificial lamb.
That turns out to be Lidice a village which, in fact, had nothing to do with the actual assassination. At the given moment, though, it came in handy there was the letter with the mysterious messages, a very young lass who falls apart before the first question is even put to her and anyway, no-one needs to ask anything more, and nor do they wish to.
The plan is plain and simple the village must disappear. During one night all men above the age of sixteen are shot, the women are dragged off to concentration camps. All the village children are assembled at the square and seven of them (being ´ethnically suitable´) are picked out for adoption in Germany. The eighty six remaining are taken off and eventually executed en-masse in gas-filled lorries.The village is burnt to the ground.
Lidice was meant to be an example of deterrence and thus the Nazis were extremely rigorous when one of the seven children chosen to be re-educated refused to speak German straight off it was sent back and murdered together with the others.
While the news of the bestial Nazi revenge spreads like wildfire throughout Czechoslovakia,
within the jail compound where íma gradually, albeit with difficulty taking into account his crime, manages to gain new friends the news of the Lidice tragedy is kept from him by everyone. íma explains to himself the lack of post and visits in his own way it is proof that the family was in the end unable to forgive him and is trying to forget about him.
The greater the shock then when he discovers the fate of his family and the village just when he is on the threshold of regaining his own freedom. His guilt which perversely saved his skin becomes suddenly a burden he has to bear all by himself. Nobody will keep reminding him of it. But neither can anybody absolve him. When the authorities discover at the end of the war that a Lidice man exists who survived it all, they judge that a hero of such ilk is inappropriate and suggest to him he simply vanishes. íma becomes a nobody. A person who does not belong anywhere, of no use , someone who has outlasted his existence and validity of his essence. The new world is possibly even more complicated than the one gone by and the only hope left for the desperate íma at the start of his ´new life´is to be left to die and share the destiny of his family and neighbours.
Just possibly the only true hope exists in the openness and the complete unplanned future left to íma a form of freedom gained by someone who reaches the very bottom. íma is free because there is nothing in the world that anyone can take from him. He is not tied to anything, he has nothing to fear as he cannot lose anything. His only duty is to live.
Score: 70 %
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at 7.6.2022 20:10