The Distant Journey (Daleká cesta), 1949, dir. Alfréd Radok
Back to Holocaust cinema and post-war Czech films. I find The Distant Journey fascinating, even more in conceptualization and production context than in the actual film. Screenwriter/Director Alfréd Radok was what the Nazis would call a Mischling, born of a Jewish father and Catholic mother. While we Jews conceive heritage through the mother, for so-called Aryan science Jewishness was about race not religion, and any Jewish heritage in parents or grandparents would do for identifying one as at least partly Jewish. That Radok was baptized didn't matter when it came to the Nazis.
Radok worked in theaters in the early 1940s, but was forced out because of his heritage. In 1944, he was sent to Klettendorf labor camp, from which he managed to escape with the help of an allied air raid in January 1945. HIs father and all paternal family members were murdered.
To make a film abut the Holocaust so soon after his experiences and losses speaks of its importance to Radok. And the film he made is equally important, especially for its stylistic choices, including the mixing of historic footage of the Nazis and excerpts from Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will with a dramatic, fictional tale of a Jewish doctor and her non-Jewish husband. The film even presciently uses as screen-in-screen style representation, as the fictional story images shrink to a small box on the lower right of the screen as Nazis march or Hitler speaks in the main frame. Then the box expands and the narrative takes over again. Also significant was its censorship by Stalinism implemented in Czechoslovakia soon after release.
As the picture-in-picture element helps us to put the specific tale of the fictional central couple against the Nazi war machine, the film's pace helps us see the slow but sure impact of antisemitic laws and the "Final Solution" on the Jewish people, including and, by implication, beyond the film's characters.
Another powerful choice made by Radok is the refusal to show blood or other evidence of violence within the film. Physical terror is represented psychologically, such as the scene of a suicide in which we neither see nor hear a man jump from his window to his death. Instead, we hear a cry in reaction and know its cause.
For more about the film's history and significance, you might wish to read this English language Central Europe Review article "Living with the Long Journey." (Thanks to Czech scholar Milan Hain for this recommendation.)
Ultimately, I enjoyed Diamonds of the Night more than The Distant Journey as a viewing experience, but with the background knowledge I now have, I find them equally important to see, each in its own way.
The Indian Doctor - Season 1 (+ first episode of Season 2)
I thought I'd give this BBC show from 2010-2013 a go as something Welsh but different from the Welsh crime dramas I've watched and sometimes enjoyed. (Definitely a choice inspired by the corona virus and stay-at-home orders.) I worried over potential ghastly racist humor at the premise of a doctor and his privileged, snappish wife from big-city India opting to move to small-town Wales. But I also considered the potential for some confrontation in showing the "foreigner" as the kind figure to teach working-class whites about issues of difference. That it's listed as a drama not a comedy-drama or sitcom helped, as did the decent IMDb ratings and reviews. In I dove!
I should've remembered that I rarely agree with the ratings on IMDb. Sitcom-level dialogue and acting and a predictable plot trajectory were the order of the day throughout the first season. Incredibly beautiful wife Kamini (Ayesha Dharker) loathes everything, from the tiny apartment above the shabby practice to not having servants to make her tea. She calls the capable young receptionist Gina (Naomi Everson) "girl," demands to go to London, and even when her heart melts a little over trouble-making child Dan (Jacob Oakley) -- in part because her own daughter with the titular Doctor Prem Sharma (Sanjeev Bhaskar) died...somehow -- it doesn't add much depth to the character. The neighborhood gossips are equally one-dimensional, as is Season 1 villain, cartoonishly named mine owner Richard "Dickie" Sharpe, played by Father Brown himself, Mark Williams (though I remember him best as Peterson in Red Dwarf and others may recall his turn as the Weasly patriarch from the Harry Potter films). That this "Dick" turns out to be impotent and simplistically malicious is highlighted by the machinations of his absurdly randy red-headed wife Sylvia (Beth Robert), who says she longs to have a child but mostly likes to put on fancy dress and 60s wigs and lord it over the commoners.
There's also a subplot in the first season in which Gina falls for rock-n-roll singer wanna-be Tom (Alexander Vlahos), then gets pregnant and fears she'll be thrown out of her house by her judgmental town-gossip grandmother, as well as a hunt for Dr. Sharma's predecessor's diary, which will out the evil doings of DIckie Sharpe. Oh, and Tom's step-mother Megan (Mali Harries) has a crush on Dr. Sharma who has ambiguous feelings but mostly warm friendship feelings with her.
All in all, the main tension over the mistreatment of the miners takes a back seat to soap opera antics which generally center on babies. Thus, race and class issues are addressed predictably and superficially and serve the purposes of predictable and superficial melodrama. And so much focus on babies turns the 1960s into a one-dimensional anti-feminist mush. The Sharmas decide to stay in town after all, the single pregnant gal is not rejected by grandmother or boyfriend...maybe, and Kamini gets a part-time substitute child to share with the alcoholic superficial socialist union leader.
Coda: Against my better judgment, I watched the beginning of the first episode of Season 2, only to find that The Indian Doctor had fully become a generic light dramedy of familiar characters and who-cares plot. Couldn't make it through the episode.