Review: The Two Popes

Review: The Invisibles

There are plenty of films about the Jews who lost their lives to the Nazis, but this is the first I’ve seen about those who hid in plain sight in Germany through the war and survived. Part narrative feature and part documentary, The Invisibles tells the stories of four young people who refused to leave Berlin, and through their own smarts and the kindness of others, lived to tell the tale. All four of them in their old age are interviewed throughout the film, and since you know they lived, you also know that no matter how close it comes to them getting caught, they won’t be found out. Nevertheless, it is an audacious story about four exceedingly brave young people.

The film begins with families being taken away to camps. Many still have no idea what their ultimate fate will be, but hold on to hope. Meanwhile 7000 Jews decide to go underground in Berlin and amazingly almost 1700 of them survive. The Invisibles tells the story of just four of them: Hanni Lévy, who dyed her hair blonde and spent a lot of time out at the movies; Cioma Schönhaus who had a talent for forgery and created travel documents that saved countless lives, while making a good living and enjoying a pretty public life; Eugen Friede who found a family of Communists to live with and helped them distribute anti-government leaflets; and Ruth Arndt actually who worked in the house of a high ranking Nazi officer. Their lives were definitely not easy, and they were very close to being caught many times. You come away with a very different picture of life under the Nazis, one in which German strangers and friends opened their hearts and homes to desperate young people, risking their own lives in the process.

The film blends the contemporary interviews with the survivors with archival footage from the period with dramatic recreations. Sometimes it works, and sometimes is a bit jarring. I think it would have been a stronger film as a docudrama intercut with interviews a la Reds. It’s also a bit long. However, it is a story that has not been told and the dramatic parts are very well done with fine performances from the actors. The Invisibles probably won’t be a big mainstream hit, but when it comes to streaming services, you should check it out.

For a more entertaining and true survivor story check out last year’s Bye Bye Germany.


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