Healing from the Scars of War
First Run Features has released “Almost Peaceful” a film about the Holocaust set in the period immediately after the war and following a group of young Jewish Parisians as they try to restart their lives and find happiness after they have been subjected to some of the worst horrors ever known to man. This amazing film was directed by Michel Deville and admirably so. The period of time which is the focus of the film is one that has been virtually unexplored on film.
Co-workers in a tailor shop in Paris in 1946 have physically recovered from having been locked up during the war but their mental states are wrecked. Jewish tailor Jacob and his wife Leah are trying to reestablish their business. Albert hires six people to work for him even though business is very slow and all of these workers with them exception of Jacqueline are Jewish who have survived the Nazi occupation. As they slowly and tentatively get to know each other, they begin the arduous task of rebuilding their self-confidence, their self-esteem and their faith in mankind. They each have to do this in their own way.
Each of the characters is a survivor in some way whether from the camps, from hiding, from having escaped, from joining the resistance or from having compromised with the occupiers. They are all fairly youthful and this was the demographic of the survivors.
The smallest thing ignites terrible memories and this is how they suffer. During the war Albert and Lea and the children were separated. Now back together, we see that Albert has a big heart and his shop is populated by other survivors. One worker was a resistance fighter, another was liberated from the camps but his wife has not yet been found and all of the others have in some way suffered at the hands of the occupation. Albert, himself, is sad but not despondent and in his own way, he seeks to regain the joy of being alive.
Among the eclectic mixture are several young men—one a promising writer, another a klutz with a big heart and even larger feet and hands. As the plot moves along, each character is fully developed as we learn of the emotional damage each has suffered. Each character gradually adapts to being truly alive and we in the audience cannot help but cheer for the progress they make.
“Almost Peaceful”, the title of the film, reflects the reality that these people deal with daily. The Nazis may be gone but the memories remain, the collaborators have been punished but the suspects still mingle in society. When one of the men tries to get permanent papers from the police, he is told quite coldly that the officer taking care of the matter will do everything in his power to thwart his application.
Part of the beauty of “Almost Peaceful” is that it shows how ordinary people begin a new life after earth shaking experiences. The role of children—both expected and hoped for—are a central theme of the film. It is the beautiful acting in the film is what really makes this movie so special. Subtle charm and humor shows the vibrancy of life which is overshadowed by horror. The cinematography is stunning and the musical background is intimate as it presents a gorgeous melodic accompaniment to an extremely fascinating film. Here is history which shows that we can all coexist and that it is that much easier with a little help from friends.