As one of the most devastating events in the history of mankind, it was inevitable that the cinema industry would catch up with the defining moments of World War II from countless perspectives. Europa Europa in that sense is no different, although it still manages to bring a new approach to the sub-genre.
Directed by Agnieszka Holland, Europa Europa focuses on the true story of Solomon Perel (Marco Hofschneider), a boy in Nazi Germany who joins the Hitler Youth in an attempt to hide his Jewish roots. The film is based on “I was Hitler Youth” by Solomon Perel which was published in 1989, a year prior to the film’s release.
The film does not necessarily have a convoluted plot, or at least, it makes an effort to appeal to a wider audience with an easy to follow plot structure. Given its origins, the story of course has its dark edges as expected, and those are implemented quite well. Some sequences are difficult to watch as a result of the nature of the story, but they are valuable to the course the film takes nevertheless.
The acting is a little rough on the edges at times, which can come across as pretentious in certain scenes. Though, for the overall picture, the acting doesn’t pose much of a problem still. Hofschneider does a good enough job so that his character is believable.
Europa Europa also explores under-explored themes such as circumcision and the necessity to hide that fact during Perel’s time in Hitler Youth. Such a subject is rarely mentioned in Holocaust films.
There are moments where one wonders if certain subplots are leading anywhere, though keeping in mind that Europa Europa is adapted from an autobiography, and therefore real life, not everything has to come full-circle. Furthermore, those subplots are also not underdeveloped, making it acceptable that they merely provide a bit more insight into the life of Solomon Perel.
Likewise, scenes connect seamlessly, leading to a masterful flow that leaves the audience pondering how approximately two hours have passed. Holland therefore makes a great showcase of her directing skills. Europa Europa starts slow and steady, and fastens the belt whilst improving the pacing bit by bit. When it comes to an end, nothing feels dragged out or pointlessly shortened; on the contrary, the story is told the way it should have been.
Among similar World War II films, Europa Europa is certainly one of the most intriguing. Apart from the Academy nominating the film for Best Adapted Screenplay, Europa Europa was unfortunately not able to reach the wide audience it deserved, but, well, cinema is timeless and Europa Europa can be visited or revisited for our viewing pleasure.