I know I'm a little behind the curve here but did any of you see the film, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler on the Hallmark Channel? I Tivoed it when it aired but, faced with the prospect of seeing another melodramatic Holocaust movie (complete with clichéd Nazi brutality and weeping Jewish victims), I let it fall down in my queue.
Well, I came across it last week and ended up watching it. For all its shortcomings (curiously enthusiastic Catholic families eagerly welcoming Jewish children into their homes and their families, minimal addressing of Polish anti-Semitism, etc...), the story itself made compelling TV. Irena Sendler, a Catholic social worker in Warsaw, became so incensed at the treatment of Jews inside the Warsaw ghetto that she conspired with a small group of trusted colleagues to smuggle children out of the ghetto. In the end, she managed to save over 2,500 Jewish children (the famous Oskar Schindler, for example, saved 1,100).
Yet the most fascinating part of the story is what was not explored on screen. In typical made-for-TV fashion, the movie ends when Sendler is reunited with her lover and we are left to assume that they lived happily ever after in post-war Poland. However, while perusing Hallmark Channel’s website after the movie, I realized how wrong that was. In reality, she lived in obscurity following the war, was labeled a fascist by the Communist regime and—even after 1989--chose not to discuss her role in saving these children because of lingering anti-Semitism in Poland. Instead, it fell to a group of high school students in Kansas to uncover her story and bring it to light.
Addressing the psychological aftershocks of total war is a far messier business than the typical good vs. evil narrative so often marketed to the Hallmark audience. But if the directors chose to expand the arc of the movie to encompass the postwar life of their heroine, it would have provided an additional, richer, dimension to the story and placed Sendler’s extraordinary actions into even greater relief. That would have been a movie I would have watched right away.
1 year ago