Last week’s fictional Transit examined the plight of an escaped concentration camp inmate trying to evade capture by French police. This week, Die Unsichtbaren (The Invisibles, opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, March 29) casts light on one of the least known stories of the Second World War: that of the Jewish occupants of Berlin who managed to evade the camps entirely.
Director Claus Räfle based The Invisibles on the experiences of four real-life survivors, seen here relating their often miraculous tales via recent interview footage (sadly, two of the participants have since died). This footage, along with contemporaneous newsreel excerpts of wartime life in Berlin, is inserted throughout the film to underscore and affirm its quartet of docudrama-style recreations.
Consequently, what could have been ‘just another’ movie about the Jewish Holocaust achieves a level of truth one usually expects from a documentary. As we watch each of the survivors’ stories unfold, any doubts we may have had about the film’s verisimilitude are assuaged by the confirmatory attestations of its character’s real-life analogues.
Though each story is unique and intriguing in its own right, perhaps the most remarkable is that of Cioma Schönhaus (Max Mauff). Schönhaus was initially saved because his work at a machine gun factory was considered essential to the war effort, but his skill at forging passports and identity documents provided a lifeline once his exemption came to an end.
160,000 Jews lived in Berlin in October 1941; by war’s end, most had been sent east to the camps. 7,000 remained in hiding in the city – many of whom were, astonishingly, run to ground by the Gestapo thanks to the efforts of Jewish informers – and approximately 1,500 of them were still there in 1945. This inspiring, moving, and suspenseful feature renders them, and those who helped them, visible once again.
The Eyes of Orson Wells
There’s no question that Orson Welles was one of the greatest (some would argue the greatest) filmmakers of the 20th century. The completion and release of his once lost opus The Other Side of the Wind recently brought him back into the spotlight, and those up for a serious analytical review of the man’s life and work will relish Mark Cousins’ documentary The Eyes of Orson Welles, opening at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater on March 29.
While perhaps not best suited for those unfamiliar with his work, Cousin’s film provides plenty of value for Welles’ enthusiasts. The director’s narration, while a bit dry and dolorous, provides deep insights into his subjects interests and influences, making a strong case that Welles’ pen and pencil sketches became an incredibly important part of his cinema.
The Eyes of Orson Welles includes generous excerpts from some of Welles’ most significant works, including Citizen Kane, Mr. Arkadin, and my personal favorite, The Trial (unfortunately, Cousins completed his film long before Wind’s late 2018 release, and it’s not mentioned at all). Segments from some rare television appearances – including the BBC’s ‘Orson Welles’ Sketchbook’ and (believe it or not) ‘The Dean Martin Show’ – provide additional reasons to scope out this first-rate documentary.