In a year when Claude Lanzmann's powerful and moving documentary SHOAH radically redefined filmmakers' approach to the Nazi Holocaust, WAR AND LOVE almost seems like an anachronism. Though based on the autobiography of its producer, Jack P. Eisner, the film unreels like a poorly created
soap opera rather than the insightful drama of its pretentions. Keneas and Sedgwick are two adolescent Polish Jews whose romance comes to an abrupt end when Sedgwick flees Warsaw with her parents as the Nazis invade their homeland. Keneas remains in what soon becomes the Jewish ghetto and helps
the underground movement smuggle in food. When the Nazis ship ghetto residents to the death camps, Keneas manages to escape and once again meets Sedgwick. The reunited lovers join in the resistance movement, but they are eventually captured by the Nazis. Though separated from Sedgwick, Keneas
survives the inhumane life of the concentration camp and is liberated by American troops after two hellish years. Keneas begins a new search for Sedgwick and eventually returns to Warsaw. There the two survivors are finally reunited in the small cottage where they first made love, though their
happiness is all too brief. Sedgwick's health has been destroyed by her experiences; having traveled great distances in hopes of finding Keneas, she dies as her lover holds her close.
Keneas and Sedgwick are both strong in these key roles, but their work is undermined by some sloppy filmmaking. The supporting cast is barely adequate, with consistently weak performances throughout. Mizrahi (director of the Oscar-winning MADAME ROSA) never gives the story much-needed guidance and
instead jumps from sequence to sequence with little regard for logical time passage or continuity. He also injects heavy-handed seriousness into the story without allowing the inherent dramatic elements to stand on their own. Mann, a respected and award-winning screenwriter, provides the cast with
unrealistic, shallow dialog, further detracting from the emotion Keneas and Sedgwick manage to give the story despite the otherwise shabby treatment. Though the intent of WAR AND LOVE is undeniably good, the unprofound and occasionally bombastic approach defeats the filmmakers' ultimate purpose.
WAR AND LOVE was the first fiction film to be made at Auschwitz, an event generating worldwide media attention. Associate producer Harry Preisler, like Eisner, had been imprisoned at Auschwitz during WW II. Witnessing scenes of Nazis once again herding the Jewish prisoners, albeit fictional, was a
deeply emotional experience for both men; Preisler, unable to bear his pain, eventually had to leave the set. Shot on location in both Poland and Hungary, the production ran into some trouble with Polish authorities when it came to using American military equipment. The government was not eager to
see American tanks rolling through the countryside, so the filmmakers were forced to turn to sympathetic Poles who still had some WW II-era vehicles under wraps since the war. These were secretly transported to shooting locations so the production could look as authentic as possible. Sedgwick is a
cousin of the late Andy Warhol actress Edie Sedgwick, and Stephen Mailer, who appears as a young Jewish resister, is the son of author Norman Mailer. Keneas' father was also a literary figure, Newsday film and book critic Alex Keneas.
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- Released: 1985
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: In a year when Claude Lanzmann's powerful and moving documentary SHOAH radically redefined filmmakers' approach to the Nazi Holocaust, WAR AND LOVE almost seems like an anachronism. Though based on the autobiography of its producer, Jack P. Eisner, the fil… (more)