The war is WWII. The woman is Helene Moszkiewicz (Martha Plimpton), a 19-year-old Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied Brussels, who infiltrates the Gestapo. Based on Moszkiewicz's book, Inside the Gestapo, A WOMAN AT WAR is an absorbing, true account of heroism and sacrifice in the tradition of
The daughter of a Jewish shopkeeper, young Moszkiewicz swiftly comes to a sobering maturity when her homeland surrenders to Nazi rule in 1940. Moszkiewicz draws attention to herself by standing up to a Gestapo officer, for which she nearly gets arrested. Franz Boehler (Eric Stoltz), a Nazi
collaborator and profiteer who is also a leader in the Resistance, is impressed by her boldness and her fluency in the German language and recruits her to work with his group. After her parents and sister are arrested by the Gestapo, Moszkiewicz assumes the identity of Olga Richter (with false
identity papers procured by Boehler) and works in the Gestapo headquarters. One of her duties is reviewing the files of suspected Jews and deciding who should be arrested now, and who later.
Moszkiewicz gains a reputation as a trusted and efficient worker while secretly sabotaging files and warning Jews who are on the arrest lists. Her actions are discovered by Jacques, a "Jew hunter," who is killed by Boehler before he can expose her. Boehler is the next to come under suspicion, and
to save him, Moszkiewicz kills his accuser, Schwenke (Olgierd Lukaszewicz). Once lovers, Moszkiewicz and Boehler part when she learns that he is helping Nazi officers to flee the crumbling Third Reich in exchange for a handsome payment. When Belgium is liberated, Moszkiewicz is arrested as a Nazi
collaborator. She clears her name and then is used by the Allies to lead Boehler into a trap that results in his death.
A WOMAN AT WAR was produced as a BBC miniseries in 1991. Its home video release in 1995, perhaps prompted by the success of SCHINDLER'S LIST, unearthed this British treasure for U.S. audiences to enjoy. Filmed on location in Poland and lensed in subdued tones, it offers an impressive recreation of
wartime Belgium. This powerful adaptation of Moszkiewicz's story by Reg Gadney and Edward Bennett (who also directed) contains some exquisitely painful and poignant moments: when the Allies storm the Gestapo building, everybody has escaped except Moszkiewicz, who has remained to safeguard the
files and instruct the soldiers on the importance of the records. She explains that each file is a person and, if destroyed, will be forgotten, as there will be no evidence. As Moszkiewicz is dragged away by the soldiers, she sees the files being tossed out of the windows and set ablaze.
Plimpton is superb in a challenging role which requires dual accents and a wide range of emotions. Less convincing is Stoltz, who comes across as distinctly American and too happy-go-lucky for a man treading dangerous waters. (Violence, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: The war is WWII. The woman is Helene Moszkiewicz (Martha Plimpton), a 19-year-old Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied Brussels, who infiltrates the Gestapo. Based on Moszkiewicz's book, Inside the Gestapo, A WOMAN AT WAR is an absorbing, true account of heroism a… (more)