Plan A (35th Israel Film Festival)

Did you know that there was a plan by angry Jews to poison the bread of SS being detained in American POW camps after WWII as revenge? It’s true! The Jews were working in a bakery that was feeding the camp and they were going to poison the bread, with the main problem being that they didn’t want to poison the Americans.

This was Plan B.

What was Plan A, you ask?

Poisoning the water supply in Nuremberg to kill as many Germans as possible.

Eep.

You can tell just by looking at them which spent a lot of time in the camps.

The 35th IFF gives us a movie about the band of rebel Jews who decide “an eye for an eye” means six million Germans should be killed. This is based on a real story though of course certain liberties were taken. I’m not sure, for example, that the six million number was being bandied about by Jewish survivors in 1945. (Wikipedia uses the number as well and seems to put it in the mouth of the head of the movement so…maybe?)

Our protagonist is Max, a Jew recently freed from the camp (sans deceased wife and child) to go to his old homestead only to get the tar beaten out of him by the German who stole it in his absence. (This is an entire sub-genre of post-WWII movies.) While fantasizing of revenge, he runs across a group of soldiers—the British army had divisions of Jews which were, of course, called Palestinians—whose extracurricular activities involve finding everyone who helped with the Shoah and killing them.

Max (August Diehl, The King’s Man) enjoys this a little too much, and when the Palestinians are recalled (presumably because Israel looms), he falls in with British Intelligence, which is trying like the dickens to stop all the revenge killings. They figure Max has a chance to get in with Nakam, a small group of terrorists plotting to carry out the eponymous Plan A. Nakam is rightfully suspicious of Max, but when he manages to get a sensitive job at the water treatment plant (by pretending to be SS, no less), they ultimately absorb him into their ranks.

The tension in the movie comes from the whole will he?/won’t he? struggle of Max as he decides what side he’s on. Does he want to stop Nakam? He’s pretty pissed. And just because the war is over doesn’t mean the Germans actually like Jews all of a sudden. (The arc of Germany, as seen in a variety of movies, seems to have been “nothing happened”, “we’re sorry” and now “we will never erase this stain on our souls”.)

Indeed, the weakness of the film is that you don’t really get a sense of Max’s struggle—because he doesn’t really seem to be struggling, at least not with the question of whether or not poisoning six million people is a good idea. He’s struggling with his trauma, he’s struggling with not being outed as a Jew, but mostly he seems okay with the plan. Excited, even.

In fact, Anna (Sylvia Hoeks, Blade Runner 2049 and Sylvia Kristel in the upcoming biopic), a Nakam member who strongly distrusts Max only to end up in a relationship (of sorts) with him becomes the film’s real main character after a while: She is at least as traumatized as Max is by the loss of her child, but she can’t completely dissociate herself from the idea that German’s also have children who have done nothing to warrant being murdered. She becomes the focus of the audience attention as she genuinely does seem to struggle.

Obviously, the historical outcome of the story is known to all of us in advance (unless you want to go Galaxy Brain on Jewish conspiracies) so the main interest of the movie is the aforementioned struggle and the movie is somewhat weaker than it might be. There are some interesting elements as far as planning goes, and as far as not wanting to poison completely indiscriminately, and also whether the consequences of a successful terrorist attack on this level might thwart the Jews attempt to claim Israel.

We did like it, but it didn’t quite gel for us. Like a lot of the Israeli films, it was at least interesting and different.

A million here, a million there...

“Second thoughts? No, why do you ask?”

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