Sobibor REVIEW – A Poignant Holocaust Drama Short On Depth

Sobibor is a passionate film that displays a heart-wrenching struggle for freedom, but falls flat through one-dimensional characters and a sudden dash to the finish line.

Soribor review

“War is hell.” In the wake of combat and territorial conflicts, many people fight to survive and are constantly caught in the crossfire of misery and strife. This was certainly true during the era of World War II, where the major nations of the world fought Adolf Hitler and the fanatical Nazi Party to preserve global solidarity and freedom. In the middle of this struggle, however, were groups of Jews who were dying within brutal Nazi-occupied concentration camps. One camp, Sobibor, was one of the deadliest, killing nearly 300,000 people during its existence. But through the leadership of one man, the Jews of this place staged the only successful revolt in Holocaust history in 1943. It is here that Konstantin Khabensky’s Sobibor recounts how the rebellion began and shows the events that led to the freedom of an oppressed and determined people.

Alexander “Sasha” Pechersky (as Khabensky) is the protagonist of this film, and the main plot shows how he becomes the leader of the Jewish captives after a botched escape attempt at a previous camp in Minsk.

From the outset, the film is colored with a somber and grisly tone, showing the perverse cruelty of the Nazis by killing off a sizable portion of Jewish women and children in a gas chamber. Additionally, peppered throughout the film are stark presentations of Nazi cruelty in comparison with the hopelessness of Jewish resistance and faith. Nazi officers are mocking and spiteful in demoralizing the Jews, while Jewish faces are in constant tears of pain by the losses they have suffered. It is this tearful display that directly impacts Sasha and his initial hesitation to lead these people against the Nazi Party. This is an emotional film that hits the viewer to the core in its scenes and plot progression.

The setting and environment also lends to the foreboding nature of the film. Grayed tones and clothing, washed out colors, and tight camera shots set muted scenes of little movement and activity as events unfold. The musical score is also a good accompaniment to the film, placing the viewer in each scene and aiding in the melancholy that some characters feel. Furthermore, when the revolt does eventually happen, the tones change to include more color and vibrancy as the characters gain confidence in their freedom. Between the story setting and intricate details, the visual and emotive presentation of the film is top-notch.

Unfortunately, these positives start to fall flat when it comes to character impact towards the plot’s climax and resolution. While the emotion of the characters in the film is excellent, the acting is only passable for the plot to keep moving and no one stands out among the cast. Even more odd is the presence of Christopher Lambert (of 1986’s Highlander film) as SS Commander Karl Frenzel, but he hardly has any screen time in a superficially throwaway role.

There also seems to be a lot packed into the plot at times, where at one point there is a scene where a Jewish worker is beaten relentlessly for disobeying a Nazi command, but the following scene goes to Sasha later talking to a fellow revolutionary about why he won’t lead the revolt due to his past trauma from Minsk. The story can be all over the place.

But when it comes to the revolt itself, it’s as if everything comes together way too quickly. Consequently, it takes a few days for the revolt to start in the film and only an hour or two for Sasha to plan it. What had taken months of planning and tons of intel relative to the true event, the film shortens to a small timeframe. Because of this, the authenticity of Sasha’s leadership (and this rebellion) is cheapened and it appears to the viewer that he knows everything about Sobibor in a short time. It almost makes the Jews’ struggle, pain, and increasing resistance feel a bit fake, which is sad considering how well the build-up develops throughout.

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Soribor review
Sobibor is a passionate film that displays a heart-wrenching struggle for freedom, but falls flat through one-dimensional characters and a sudden dash to the finish line.