If I were to ask you how many movies you can name that are about World War II, you can probably name AT LEAST 5 of them. Without even having to watch a film about it, we probably know the basic gists of it. Unless you were THAT guy who skipped every history class you ever had to take, you know that (ignore the oversimplification) Hitler came to power, invaded some countries and thought it was a good idea to eradicate an entire race of people… It’s the classic story between good and evil, light and dark, right and wrong. People like the idea that good will always triumph over evil – no matter how dark that evil is. World War II movies tend to reflect that theme.
In Saving Private Ryan (1998), the Americans tend to be people who are morally right, while the Germans tend to be morally wrong. The one German guy that had a sense of morality ended up killing a likeable character later in the film – in a really cruel way might I add – and had us as a viewer hating the one guy who knew German. A more recent film like Fury (2015) – starring my idol Brad Pitt – did portray a more ‘human’ German, but only humanized the civilian German characters and not the soldiers. And for those of us who did attend our history classes, we all know that the victors write history, so it’s no surprise that the American produced titles that I mentioned above would try to dehumanize the Germans. No one would’ve liked the ending to Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) if you knew that Sauron wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
This next Title You Wouldn’t Consider on Netflix tried to clear up what was going on through the minds of the ‘bad guy.’ Naked Among Wolves (2015), is a German drama film directed by Philipp Kadelbach. The movie is about Buchenwald Concentration Camp, and how a group of prisoners played nice with their German captors to escape from being sent to the ‘chimney’, while at the same time planning a rebellion within the camp that would coincide with the approaching American forces that are liberating Concentration Camps as they make their way towards Berlin. Their plans however takes on huge peril as Hans Pippig – played by Florian Stetter – finds a young Jewish boy in one of the suitcases. Why did someone think it was a good idea to smuggle a three year old kid into a concentration camp? I don’t know but it posed some huge problems for the characters in the film. Just imagine if you were put into that predicament. After 2 years of sucking up to the SS guards, earning their trust and stealing ammunition for your rebellion, would you be able to protect a child in order to protect yourself? It would be pretty hard to let a kid die so you could live. Some of the SS guards even had a hard time with it; they too also had to deal with their own morals, they weren’t just mindless robots following orders.
Naked Among Wolves (2015) challenges us to look at our own humanity. Not only are the protaganists trapped within the confines of the concentration camp, they are trapped within their own morality. The shots that were used in the film seemed to emphasize that sense of hopelessness. Beautifully shot, Philipp Kadelbach seemed to stick to close ups and mid shots to literally trap the character within the frame. His excellent use of blocking also seemed to enclose the character within something, further enhancing that that they are prisoners. Kadelbach’s use of WWII footage to show the American advancement was a great way to further the narrative of the film without losing the actual message of it. I also liked the way the film played around with colours to amplify the emotion of the scenes. The scenes in the concentration camp seemed to use more cool and dull colours, while the flashback scenes tend to be warmer. Even as the movie progressed and as the American forces moved closer, the colours of the film seemed to warm up.
All together, I give Naked Among Wolves (2015) a GOOD watch if you want to see another side to the World War II story. Though some scenes can be a bit overdramatic – especially Pippig’s story arc – I am confident that this German film will not dissapoint.
Watch the Trailer Here: