"Samson" is a stirring movie and is on par with Wajda's best
Richard J. Brzostek | New England, USA | 07/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Andrzej Wajda brings us a suspenseful and intellectual wartime drama with his 1961 film "Samson." The story is a tragic one; it is a film about a Jewish man named Jakub who spends a great deal of time as a prisoner, of one sort or another. Before the war, he accidentally kills someone and is sent to prison. When World War II erupts, he is released from prison only to be put behind the walls of the Ghetto. It is one tragedy after another for Jakub. From there, he escapes from the Ghetto only to spend his time in hiding, again a prisoner.
The story is sad, but it is also about a time in history that was full of tragedy. It is depressing to see both before and during the war, others treating Jakub meanly because he is Jewish. On the bright side, he isn't always treated badly. In fact, many people do treat him well and help him. Time after time people help him, but it only makes him feel others control his fate. I was frustrated with Jakub overlooking his good fortunes. Two women fall for him, but he seems too wrapped up in his own thoughts and ideals to appreciate that he does have someone that cares about him.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the film contains a "tacked-on" message about communism. At the beginning of the film, Jakub meets a communist in the next cell over to him that is portrayed as an intellectual. Later on, he meets a group of communists that are helpful to him. To me, it didn't really add much or detract anything from having this piece of pro-communist propaganda added to the film. It may, however, be a great example of pro-government messages in cinema under a communist government.
I think the fact "Samson" is in black and white added something to the film. It is hard to put a finger on exactly, but it is almost as if the story is a tragedy and so it is only fitting that it is devoid of color. "Samson" is a stirring movie and is on par with Wajda's best work.
A Fascinating and Well-Crafted Film
Kurt Harding | Boerne TX | 05/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First off, here's a warning: understand Polish. Though Samson is supposed to have English subtitles, those that it does have are sparse and often truncated. Its like hearing only a small portion of what is said. That caveat aside, the non-Polish speaker can still enjoy this film and understand what's going on by paying close attention to it.
This is the story of Jakub Gold, a young Jewish man in pre-war Poland who finds himself dealing daily with anti-Semitism. As he is taunted and fairly seriously threatened at a patriotic rally by anti-Semitic fellow students, he accidentally kills one of his tormenters when he deflects a large rock being thrown around that comes dangerously close to him. For this he is jailed and even in jail, no one lets him forget that he is a Jew. Then when WW II breaks out, the prisoners escape, but freedom is brief as Jews are forced to move behind the ghetto barriers being built by the occupying Nazis.
Here Jakub finds himself among his fellows and is employed to help remove the bodies of those found dead in the streets. When he finds his mother, he resolves to escape and with the another's help, he manages to scale the ghetto wall and vanishes into Warsaw's general population. But here, he finds himself in a new kind of prison as he must always lurk in the shadows trying to escape detection. Many people help him, including a couple of women who become attached to him, but there are always those who are afraid to help for fear of the Gestapo, and those whose antipathy to the Jews make his position precarious. Jakub often seems ungrateful and hostile towards his benefactors but one can almost understand this when his predicament and likely mental state is taken into account.
The ending of the film is stunning, but the revenge Jakub wreaks on those who have killed so many of his people seems a little overblown. It is very tragic when it didn't have to be so. You'll see what I am talking about when you watch it.
Some things surprised me about the film. Though this was made under a communist government, life in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation was not portrayed as particularly harsh. The average Pole on the street was well-dressed and privation was not evident except in the ghetto. Though anxious to avoid notice by the occupying forces, people seemed to go about their business living as normally as it is possible to live in a wartime economy. Only at the end as the Germans were on the verge of leaving can you see the real destruction wrought by the war.
Despite my very limited command of Polish and the paucity of the English sub-titles, I found Samson a fascinating and well-crafted film that I am proud to add to my collection."