There are so many films about Holocaust that I have lost the count. And all of them are equally great, delivering a heart-wrenching concept in a very delicate manner that can stop any heart from beating. Every single story has its heroes and villains. And sometimes, even there are villains, whose hearts become softer after experiencing compassion through love. Andrei Konchalovsky’s “Paradise” is another view of our horrific past, that should make us ashamed and proud at the same time. Of course, there is no question that we should be ashamed of the killings and genocide that happened against humanity. But that’s when we learn about the existence of good and bad people, we see the things that people do in order to survive or help others to survive. That’s exactly what Konchalovsky shows in his film.
Filmed in black-and-white, “Paradise” follows three protagonists: Olga (Yuliya Vysotskaya) – a Russian immigrant who is the editor of Vogue Fashion magazine and serves the French Resistance; Zhyul (Philippe Duquesne) – French Nazi officer who is assigned to work on Olga’s case; and young, handsome Khelmut – a high-ranked SS officer, who is appointed by his boss Heinrich Himmler (Victor Sukhorukov) to look into Olga’s matter. These three different people from different backgrounds and pursuing different goals will face one another during the harsh times, and all of them will have one fate to share.
The film begins with the long and dark scene of prison corridor. Olga is taken here after being arrested by the Gestapo for helping two Jewish children. We see her speak French. The next scene takes us to another place – brighter and more hopeful. There, she begins telling her story. Zhyul – the Nazi officer, receives Olga’s case to proceed with it immediately. Unable to resist her natural charm, the man agrees to release her in return for sexual favors. But due to unforeseen circumstances, he has to drop the case and that leads to Olga being sent to a concentration camp. The location of the camp is not specified.
There she meets Khelmut (Christian Clauss) – a golden boy of Nazi Reich. He is the ideal example of a man who, according to Hitler, will build its own version of paradise lead by the young generation. Young Khelmut is assigned to a senior commanding position in the same camp where Olga is sent to. Everything changes in an unpredictable way, when the two of them meet and recognize each other. A few years ago they have spent a playful summer together, which has left a visible and pleasant mark in their lives. As the story unfolds, the three heroes sit in front of a camera and are interviewed by someone. Throughout the film, all three of them reveal what has happened.
In conclusion, “Paradise” is an excellent, yet painful drama about Holocaust. Certain scenes may leave the viewer sick to the stomach. Still, it effectively reaches the audience’s mind, keeping them busy from the beginning to the end. The best thing about Konchalovsky’s film is that you can hardly compare it to any other war drama. It’s a unique, beautiful piece of art that holds a perfect balance between madness and happiness, where some still hope to find their own paradise somewhere in between. Khelmut, Olga, and Zhyul are not bad people. Each of them tries to leave sweet memories behind. All three want to escape the hell they found themselves in. Perhaps, this film may be able to relocate them from one place to another, who knows? But that is only the tip of the iceberg; the rest of it they are yet to discover…