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Three Jewish brothers escape from Nazi-occupied Poland into the Belarussian forest, where they join Russian resistance fighters and endeavor to build a village in order to protect themselves and others in danger.
Defiance in my opinion are what movies are all about.
This movie impressed me a great deal and it makes me wonder why its studio didn't push it more during the awards season. Instead, it's almost a lost film coming out in the middle of January 2009 and probably will be a forgotten film by the end of the year.
For me, Defiance is a movie about the search for what is TRUTH in life. Things are not fair, that's a given (but what is fair really?), but life is all about finding the truth of life's meaning within the challenges we face. And the bigger the challenge, the more truth you seem to find.
In Victor Frankl's memoir Man's Search for Meaning about surviving the Holocaust, he writes:
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.
That quote was something that effected me personally during my own rough time of survival in the early century. I'm not comparing my addiction conflicts with the conflicts the Jews went through, but I like to think I understand the feeling.
There is that moment when you must choose if you want to go through a lot of pain and suffering for that chance for survival and peace in the end. OR that living in these situations is always better than dying. It's about valuing the value of our own life. And what that means to each of us individually.
That's what the Bielski's brothers and 1000s of other survivals went through in the woods for 2+ years. They chose to do whatever it took to survive.
What makes Defiance such a good movie is that its main characters are actual human beings and not portrayed as super-heroes. They are all flawed people who struggle internally and externally to do what they think is right and a lot of times they do the wrong things. These brothers all had trouble with the law in the past and ironically they became the saviors for many people.
There is a great moment in the beginning when Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig), an obvious natural leader is helping out a family. The head of the family is his former grade school teacher who remembers Tuvia as the student who didn't seem to learn anything and sat in the back of the class. He knew Tuvia was going to end up in future troubles with the law and probably wouldn't be much of anything. Because Tuvia has such a strong sense of survival and carries his leadership abilities, the teacher now finds himself in a position to really need him. In life how the wagons circle!
In the first 15 minutes of the film we see Tuvia take revenge on the murder of his parents. This ideal of an eye for an eye (or blood for blood) value turns out to be a very ironic moment for him when he is forced to start thinking for others and not solely for himself. A great life lesson for all of us to think about with our own values. It really does all change if your actions effect many.
Another strong theme in Defiance is LOYALTY. It starts with the relationships with each character's family and then it seems to spread throughout as conflicts and situations become larger. Loyalty is an interesting word as it can go in many different directions as we all seem to have our own definition. But what does it really mean when you are trying to save people and you have limited resources?
In grade school we were all taught the 4 major elements of survival. FOOD, SHELTER, WATER, PROTECTION. But the 5th element is community and family. We are a tribal species and we all seem to have to live around others in order to survive. That's because there is no purpose for living when you are not living for someone else.
Defiance opened up a large can of worms for myself. It brought up a lot of questions for my own life. And it makes me realize how good I got it. And sometimes you need that slap in the face to wake you up out of the madness of our current society. I'm not saying its bad. In fact, it's more good than bad X100 in my opinion. But I do realize that we should make it a lot better and people went through a lot of shit to make it as good as it is right now.
I hope people go see this film. It's well done in every level. And Daniel Craig has seemed to mastered playing the good guy with a dark edge role.