Andrei Konchalovsky offers a cross-section of Europe under Nazi rule through his three main characters: French-Nazi collaborator Jules (Phillippe Duqesne), Russian Resistance member Olga (Julia Vysotskaya), and high-ranking SS officer Helmut (Christian Clauβ). In doing so, with daring and sophisticated filmmaking, with Paradise, director Andrey Konchalovsky paints a comprehensive picture of Nazism that at points can be soul-searing.
The greatest strength of the plot and its three central characters is that they demonstrate how Nazism breaks human beings. This destruction is not physical or psychological, though both are shown. Rather it is the destruction of personal morals. This is most clearly shown when the characters find themselves forced to compromise their own sense of humanity to survive within the system.
A lesser film could risk creating an equivalency between conflicted Nazis and Holocaust victims, but the script is smart enough to avoid that pitfall. It does so through pseudo-documentary segments that pepper the film. Here, the three main characters are interviewed about their actions in the story. It’s an odd creative choice that pays off well because it humanises the characters.
These documentary sequences are also part of a larger gambit by Konchalovsky, who probes the borders between reality and art. His depiction of the camps is stark in their realism, which he contrasts with the unreality of the outside world. A scene in Himmler’s office is exquisitely lit, offering a horrifying hint at the German paradise his ideology seeks to create.
Paradise manages to find a unique place in the pantheon of Holocaust films. This problematic genre can often turn its figures of perpetrators and victims into static museum figures onto whom we project simple feelings of pity and anger. Konchalovsky goes beyond this to condemn Nazism with intelligence.
CAST: Yuliya Vysotskaya, Christian Clauss, Philippe Duquesne, Peter Kurth
DIRECTOR: Andrey Konchalovskiy
WRITERS: Elena Kiseleva, Andrey Konchalovsky
SYNOPSIS: Follows three people whose paths cross during a terrible time of war: Olga, a Russian aristocratic emigrant and member of the French Resistance; Jules, a French collaborator; and Helmut, a high-ranking German SS officer.