Follow TV Tropes


Film / Divided We Fall

Go To

Divided We Fall (Musíme si pomáhat—"we must help each other") is a 2000 film from the Czech Republic, directed by Jan Hřebejk.

Czechoslovakia, 1943, under Nazi occupation. Josef Čížek is a Czech man who used to work in a factory, until he injured his leg in an accident. Now he loafs around at home. He and his wife Marie get along about as well as it is possible to get along while there are Nazis all over the place. They are occasionally visited by Horst, a Czech of German ethnicity who now collaborates with the Nazi occupiers. Horst is superficially friendly with Josef and he does sometimes look out for Josef and Marie, but in the pre-war days, Horst was Josef's subordinate at the factory. Now Horst enjoys lording his status over his former boss. Horst also lusts for Marie.

The factory where Josef and Horst worked was owed by the Wieners, a Jewish family who were dispossessed when the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939. In 1941 the Wieners were sent off to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Two years later David, the Weiners' son, escapes and makes it back home. He reports to Josef and Marie that the supposedly comfortable camp at Theresienstadt is merely a way station to the camps in Poland, where the Jews are being exterminated. A horrified Josef decides to hide David in the storage room of his apartment, but it will not be easy to keep him hidden, not with Germans all over the streets and Horst constantly barging into the apartment and looking to get into Maria's pants.



  • Away in a Manger: A guy named Josef and his wife Marie. His wife is pregnant with a baby that isn't his, but is rather a "son of David". There are three visitors there to observe the birth (one Red Army soldier, one member of the Czech regular army, and one member of the Czech Resistance). And if that isn't obvious enough, earlier in the film Josef imagines his wife's face superimposed on the portrait of the Virgin Mary that hangs in the apartment.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Invoked. Horst decides to leave a disabled Dr. Kepke with Josef and Marie, which would be disaster as David would get discovered. A panicking Marie says that they can't take Dr. Kepke because she's pregnant. Unforutnately, and as the whole neighborhood knows, Josef is infertile. So Josef decides they have to get Marie pregnant somehow. She resists, but eventually she lets David have sex with her, the pregnancy is passed off as a "miracle", and the neighbors all pretend that they don't know.
  • Advertisement:
  • Chekhov's Skill: Horst mentions offhandedly that he delivered his children himself. Later, when they can't find a doctor, Horst delivers Marie's baby.
  • Child Soldiers: It's a mark of things not going well for the Germans when Dr. Kepke the Nazi party boss, who has already lost two sons in the war, sends off his third, who can't be much more than 14.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: Josef drives David out of town to rendezvous with another escapee. The other man doesn't show. David tells Josef that it's OK, and walks away down the road in the pouring rain. Josef, who knows that David's chances of escape are practically nil, puts the car in reverse, picks up David, and takes him home.
  • Covert Distress Code: As David and the other Wieners are being sent off to Theresienstadt in 1941, Marie says hopefully that conditions in Theresienstadt are supposed to be decent. David says yes, he got a letter from his aunt there, who says that there are theaters and concerts and hot running water. But he doesn't understand why his aunt mentioned that Uncle Otto has developed a cough, because Uncle Otto has been dead for 15 years.
  • Distant Prologue: Starts with a brief 1937 prologue in which Mr. Wiener and Josef are goofing on Horst, who was Mr. Wiener's chauffeur and apparently the Butt-Monkey. Next comes a 1939 scene in which the Wieners are shown leaving their lavish mansion. After that comes a 1941 scene in which the Wieners are shown being sent to Theresienstadt. The three scenes together take about five minutes, before the main story starts unspooling in 1943.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Franta does this when Josef reveals that he's been hiding David in his pantry for two years. Franta knows it's true, because he saw David in the neighborhood in 1943 and tried to betray him to the Germans.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: One day Horst brings Dr. Kepke, the local Nazi Party boss, over to the apartment. Dr. Kepke has gotten extremely drunk after finding out that one of his sons has died in combat.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: How David is framed, lit by a single candle in the storeroom, as he tells Marie about how his sister Katje could have survived as a kapo, but only if she'd been willing to beat her own parents to death with a club. Their mom and dad got on their knees and begged Katje to do it.
  • Final Solution: The Jews of Europe are being exterminated. David is apparently the only survivor, his whole family having been sent to the camps.
  • Foreshadowing: When Josef complains about the kids being noisy in the street, saying "Can't those bastards be quiet?", Marie gets pedantic and says "bastard" means a child born out of wedlock. Later in the movie she will deliver a child born out of wedlock.
  • A Friend in Need: Josef is scared, and he has misgivings, but he takes David in and hides him in the storeroom, rather than let the Nazis get him.
  • Gasshole: When Horst loudly breaks wind at Josef's dinner table, it's basically a display of dominance.
  • The Ghost: Horst's German wife, who wants him to move to Germany with her, and who, it is implied, is the reason why Horst is a collaborator in the first place. Late in the film it's revealed that she has abandoned him, presumably having gone back to Germany as the Red Army approaches.
  • Gilligan Cut: Josef tells Marie that she has to let David knock her up, because now she has to get pregnant. A shocked Marie says "I'll never do that." Cut to Marie, making herself look pretty for sex with David.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: A lot of messy choices being made in Czechoslovakia. Josef risks his life and his wife's life by hiding David—but then he deflects suspicion by taking up a job evicting other Jews from their homes. Horst is a Nazi collaborator and anti-Semite, and oh by the way he tries to rape Maria at one point. But he also does not give the Čížeks away after figuring out fairly early on that they're harboring a Jew in their apartment, and later he misdirects the Germans so that they don't find David. Josef's neighbor Franta is with La Résistance, but Franta tried to turn David in when David first showed up in the old neighborhood.
  • Groin Attack: How Marie escapes when Horst tries to rape her.
  • Hey, Wait!: Josef is driving David (in the trunk) back into town when a German officer shouts "Halt!". A terrified Josef stops his car, and discovers that the German's car has conked out and he needs assistance. Josef manages to get his toolbag out of the trunk without the German seeing David, and fixes the German's car.
  • Imagine Spot: At the very end Josef imagines David's murdered family, accompanied by Dr. Kepke's son who was shot for desertion, sitting at a table in the ruins of the town and waving to him.
  • Kick the Dog: Does a Nazi goon shoot a little dog? Yes.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Horst, an ethnic German who seems to welcome the Nazi overlords. He turns more sympathetic later in the film. Josef, who took Horst's job offer of evicting Jews from their homes as a way to avoid suspicion himself, gets accused of being one.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Josef stuffs David in the trunk of his car and drives him out for a rendezvous with another escapee. When the other escapee doesn't arrive, Josef puts David back in the trunk for the ride back in to town—and then has to stop to help a German officer with a stalled car.
  • Title Drop: Horst says the German for "we must help each other" towards the end, after he manages to fend off the Nazis who were about to enter Josef's apartment and find David.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Among the collaborators being terrorized at the end of the film is a woman who presumably slept with Germans, getting her hair hacked off in the public square.