1990, R, 112 min. Directed by Agnieszka Holland. Starring Marco Hofschneider, Julie Delpy, Hanns Zischler.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 27, 1991
Solly's circumcised penis is both his curse and his salvation. Europa Europa is a filmed account of Solomon Perel's autobiographical experiences during the World War II. A Polish-German Jew by birth, Solly is a young teen when the Holocaust breaks apart his family. Leaping naked out a bathroom window as the SS breaks into his family's home, Solly embarks on a somewhat picaresque journey through the absurdities of wartime Europe. Adopting and peeling off various life-saving identities, Sollie shuffles about intact. He ping pings back and forth through the ideological monsters of Naziism and Stalinism. From Communist orphanage to Hitler youth group, Solly blends right in with each circumstance that he finds himself in, whether he be surrounded by anti-Semitic Nazis or godless Communists. In fact, the only problem he has with “passing” is when he strips down to his circumcision. It would be a dead giveaway, literally. The ever-present threat of discovery makes difficult such matters as bathing and urinating and other daily hygienic tasks...not to mention rolls in the hay with young Nazi lasses. Yet that circumcised penis is also Solly's one outward connection to his heritage. This reminder is his only ostensible link to his secret past. His Jewishness is more of a cultural identity than a religious one. And what do Solly and his brother do when they rediscover each other after their long separation? They pee into the rain together (I kid you not). How's that for the modern practice of Judaism? Polish director Holland (Angry Harvest) manages to maintain an ironic tone throughout this adventure that takes Solly from one brink of death to the next. A couple of charmingly absurd dream sequences have Hitler and Stalin joined in a waltz step. As a personal, autobiographical tale, Europa Europa is a fascinating narrative. As a historical memoir, its details are compelling.