(director: Vadim Perelman; screenwriters: IlJa Tsofin/based on the short story,Invention of a Language by Wolfgang Kohlhaase; cinematographer: Vladislav Opelyants; editor:Vessela Martschewski; music: Evgueni Galperine/Sacha Galerine; cast: Nahuel Perez Biscayert (Gilles), Lars Eidinger (Klaus Koch), Jonas Nay (Max), Alexander Beyer (Commandant), Leonie Benesch (Elsa), David Schuetter (Paul), Luisa Celine Gaffron (Jana); Runtime: 127; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ilya Stewart, Murad Osmann, Pavel Burya, Ilya Zofin, Vadim Perelman, Timur Bekmambetov, Rauf Atamalibekov; Belarusfilm/Hype Film; 2020-Russia/Germany/Belarus-in German, French, Italian, English and Persian, with English subtitles)
“Would have been better if not so awkwardly executed.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s set in 1942 in occupied France. Vadim Perelman (“House of Sand and Fog”/”The Life Before Her Eyes”), the Ukrainian-born filmmaker living in Canada, soberly directs and IlJa Tsofin writes the script for this grim but at times oddly amusing Holocaust story based on the short story, Invention of a Language by Wolfgang Kohlhaase. It’s a story inspired by true events, and would have been better if not so awkwardly executed.
The Jewish man Gilles (Nahuel Perez Biscayert), the son of a rabbi, a resident from Antwerp, is caught trying to escape to Switzerland with a bilingual Persian poetry book in his hand. He becomes a prisoner in a transit camp and claims to be Iranian to the Nazi authorities and thereby is not killed. The French-speaking prisoner is then forced to teach Farsi, for food rations, a language he does not know, to a Nazi SS officer, in charge of the kitchen detail, Klaus Koch (Lars Eidinger), whose dream is to open a German restaurant in Tehran after the war. The resourceful Giles makes up a nonsensical language to teach the Nazi, realizing failure will mean his death.
The two characters converse and make an uneasy bond until the third act leads to a powerful conclusion that is gut-wrenching, as the prisoners are taken to the death camps in Poland and Gilles realizes there’s more to do to survive than fake speaking like an Iranian
It played at the Berlin Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 6/16/2023 GRADE: B