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THE MOVIE: Defiance

Daniel Craig • Liev Schreiber • Jamie Bell
DIRECTOR: Edward Zwick

Daniel Craig THE CONCEPT:
Based a true story. In 1941 when the Nazies were massacring Jews in Eastern Europe, Tuvia Bielski (Craig), and his brothers Zus (Schreiber) and Asael (Bell), led a group of Jews into the woods surrounding Stankevich, determined to survive in those primitive surroundings and fight the Nazis there. They managed to outlast the war and in 1945, 1200 of them walked out of the woods free.

U.S. RELEASE: December 31 2008, Nationwide Limited • Rated: R


DANIEL CRAIG on how this inspiring story finally came out:
Daniel Craig“For all sorts of reasons [Tuvia] didn’t talk about it. My theory, and I think it’s fairly accurate, is that the children of the people that went through it started growing up and of course started asking questions and saying, ‘What was your experience?’ There were people who had gone through the Holocaust and had survived Auschwitz; and these people had survived, certainly, in a very different way. I think the common theme was Tuvia Bielski. They said, ‘This man led us through.’”

Jamie Bell“It’s is a story of heroism, but the things that they had to do to get there are pretty brutal, and I think we find it hard to accept, we have no idea of the circumstances back then, we can’t really comprehend what it must have been like. To survive you have to do some pretty brutal things, whether it’s murdering your neighbor for food, or murdering another guy for some medicine so that people can stay alive. And I think that’s way Tuvia Bielski did not want this story to be told, purely because it was too hard for him to explain why he had to do certain things. He’s a hero because he saved lives, and that’s why the story should be told.”

Liev Schreiber“In researching the Holocaust for work that I had done in the past, in trying to speak to survivors I found that there were very few people who were willing to talk with me. They were suspicious of me. As I researched the Bielski themselves I started to see maybe the possibility of why didn’t want to talk about it. I was really interested in the moral ambiguity of what they had done. To me that’s what makes them heroic. It’s the vulnerability, it’s the cracks in the armor that equipped them to do what they did.”

Liev Schreiber and Daniel Craig“That’s what fascinated me, these people did bad things, and you always have to look at the net result which is that twelve hundred people walked out of this situation and survived. But keeping that many people together, and under control, there were power struggles and major shifts in power. There was Zus Bielski who was trying to gain control; they took revenge on the local population, they fought very hard against the Germans at times. It’s the moral line that they’re walking, but for kind of a good reason that I found fascinating.”

BELL on shooting in the woods in Lithuania:
“I would imagine for those people it was pretty disorientating. You suddenly find yourself in one long collage of green and brown, and suddenly all the forest starts to look the same. I remember I went to use the bathroom in the forest, because conveniently they placed the trailers about 30 minutes away from the set so that we wouldn’t go back there, and I remember coming back and I really had to listen, I was like, ‘Where the f- has the set gone?’ I was totally lost. I would imagine if someone [back then] sat down to take a rest, and they saw [the group] disappearing they’d be f-d, because you can’t figure out where you are.”

“Most of what happens in the movie is absolutely reported. It happened over a three year period, we condensed a lot of that into one year, but the running away, going through the swamp, the fact that a whole infantry of Germans were sent in to get them, 20,000 men were sent in to actually root them out, it all happened.”

SCHREIBER on his action scenes:
“Ever played cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians? I hate it if I’m blowing anyone’s cover here, I don’t think men really grow past 22 intellectually. Do you know what I mean? Physically we just grow older and we are less capable of doing the things we want to do, but I don’t think we stop wanting to do them. The action scenes were fun.”

CRAIG on whether he thought of James Bond when he was doing his action scenes:
“No. I don’t have those connections in my head. The situation is that Tuvia can’t really use a gun that well and certainly he’s never shot anyone in cold blood before, and so it’s a completely different mindset. The [Bond] soundtrack wasn’t going through my mind when I was doing those scenes.”

“If you talk to any surviving partisans, the way they talk about forests is so different from the way that I think we see forests. The forests and the trees were their savior in a big way. The forests of Lithuania are vast, endless, and there are these settlements within them today, we would see people walking into the forest with their shopping bags, it was bizarre.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Feature © 2008 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #701, December 2008 cover

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