Jerry Cutler On Film—’Aftermath’s Story Brings Out Hidden Truths In A Story Unfortunately Based On Truth
The fact that Aftermath caused an uproar in Poland and its writer/director and leading actor’s lives were threatened, is reason enough to see this totally engrossing film currently at Laemmle’s Royale Theatre in West LA.
Based on a book about Polish villagers who will do everything in their power to avoid the truth about its Jewish neighbors who were put to death when the Nazis invaded their town, Aftermath, as crafted by Polish director Wladyslaw Pasikowski, is a thriller that casts guilt today for the horrors exacted yesterday.
Jozef’s brother Franciszek returns home after 20 years living in Chicago to their humble living quarters in a poor and friendless Polish village. The following day, when Franciszek goes to inspect their wheat field, he discovers many Jewish headstones. Jozef tells him that they had been used to pave roads and that he was salvaging them. When asked for an explanation Jozef simply says: “They were human beings.” His deeds have provoked the hub of the townsfolk, who, still harboring anti-Semitic feelings, turn against him, a fellow Catholic, and cover the side of his barn with crudely painted Stars of David and anti-Jewish slurs.
The movie depicts Holocaust atrocities through a very smart woven story that provokes many questions but, initially, gives no answers. The puzzle starts to unravel when the brothers refuse to back down. In a way, the theme is Biblically based with the heart of its story emanating from the Old and New Testaments. However, the age old and ever-present feelings of hatred towards one another will, unfortunately, never subside and the Tower of Babel and its ominous message will continue to linger.
Aftermath boldly brings out the hidden issues of a story that unfortunately is based on truth. It’s an important film and should be seen.
3-1/2 bagels out of 4
Jerry Ram Cutler, The Courier’s film critic, is rabbi at Creative Arts Temple