Band of Bielskis
My historical knowledge, not just of World War II but much of history is embarrassingly short and I put the blame for that on boring history lessons taught from text books which put me off learning. I hope that has changed and modern history lessons take advantage of cinema because a good movie can both entertain and educate but also inspire the audience to want to know more. One such movie is "Defiance" based upon the true story of the Bielski brothers who having fled to the woods established the Bielski partisans who helped rescue Jews but also did combat with Germans. Not only did "Defiance" entertain with action but it educated me into what happened but more importantly it lead me to want to know more and is why I say again modern education should take advantage of movies like this to inspire a lust for learning in the classroom.
When brothers Zus (Liev Schreiber - Scream 3) and Asael Bielski (Jamie Bell) return home to find their family slaughtered and their younger brother Aron (George MacKay) cowering in a cupboard they head to the forest for safety, knowing that their will be soldiers looking for them. It is in the forest they are reunited with older brother Tuvia (Daniel Craig - Quantum of Solace) and before long find themselves accompanied by others who have fled to the safety of the forest. But with the numbers increasing and the need for food as well as bad weather making life difficult, especially for Tuvia who finds himself the leader of the group.
Before watching "Defiance" my knowledge other than who starred in it was that it was based on a true story, a true story I had never heard of. But this is what is so great about the movie because by the time it was over I wanted to know more about the Bielski brothers and what happened and what I learnt was even more amazing than what I watched. Now that does mean that "Defiance" isn't 100% factual but it gets across the heart of the story across, how the Bielski's came to be in the forest, how they came to lead an increasing number of Jews and the sort of battles they had to deal with, from the threat of being found to how to survive the cold weather and sickness. Some may say that by changing things it spoilt the true story but for me it makes it work as entertainment which then makes you want to learn more.
Now as entertainment, well we are for the most talking a war movie so we have plenty of action as there is fighting be it between the Jews and the Germans or within the partisans as battles over leadership happen. There is an element of boy's fantasy about it and as we watch a scene where Tuvia runs through a forest with a machine gun it reminded me of the sort of imaginary games I played as a child. It certainly has that sort of war movie appeal and with this being a dirty and gritty movie it is a slice of cinema which has been lacking for a while.
But there is more to "Defiance" than the action and we have the element of the way of life in the forest. We see how tough choices have to be made over relationships, how rations were short and how illness took grip. It brings to life what it must have been like for these Jews as they became people of the forest, scratching out new lives for themselves in the harshest of worlds.
What is also good about "Defiance" is the choice of cast because in Daniel Craig they pulled off a master stroke. Not only does Craig as Tuvia give us the action but also the troubles of being in charge he also guarantees people will want to watch and buy getting people in they then get to inspire people to learn more, it is part of the reason why movies like this would work as part of the classroom. But whilst Daniel Craig is the star of the movie its success is from the collective of performances from Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell to those of Sam Spruell and Mia Wasikowska.
What this all boils down to is that "Defiance" is a very good movie which manages to take a true story, turn it into entertainment but also at the same time educate and lead the audience to want to know more. It manages to mix action with drama and brings the amazing story of the Bielski brothers to life and that of the Jews who they helped save.