As millions celebrated the end of World War II, there’s a habit of conjuring this immediate image of the defeat of Hitler as a drawn curtain. In reality, for thousands of survivors of the Holocaust, returning Jewish communities found that, despite the atrocities they had endured, this was only the closing of one chapter. Many coming home from the camps were abandoned and left to wander the wilderness of Germany, and families and sole survivors made their way back to find German families occupying their homes.
With ripples of Nazi sympathy still present, many Jewish families sought to accept the Allies’ offer to return them to Palestine. But for some, Germany was their home. A home they had built and, understandably, there was a profound thirst for vengeance, one which the Nuremberg Trails would not sate. Plan A was an archaic and biblical concept of an eye for an eye, or in the eyes of Jewish radicals: “six million for six million“.
This German-Israeli coproduction takes a loose account of the true story, focusing on the life of Auswitch survivor Max and his part in the plan to poison millions of German civilians. Doron and Yoav Paz’s Plan A places sentiment and performance at the forefront, cinematography and score taking a buffering place for transitional moments or emboldening emotion. And while the script has potential and choice performances achieve their intentions, the complete piece fails to impart a sense of connection with the audience.
Failing to secure the stakes at hand, Plan A possess inherently talented performances which are fumbled by the direction, somehow dissolving investment in the individual. Characters have a peculiar habit of walking in slow-motion when crossing rooms; a ‘weight’ pushes upon them to convey a sense of struggle but comes over in a pace-stricken manner, rather than an authentic character choice of exhaustion. These small decisions like the lack of individuality between characters muddy the film, disengaging investment.
Challenging preconceptions in minor areas, the writing does make provocations faced following the war. One soldier asking the Jewish survivors why they never fought back: “There were thousands of you in the camps”. Sharp intakes pause viewers for a moment at the direct questioning, rather than sympathetic expectations they are used to. There’s a decent attempt at portraying the Jewish survivors less as victims and more as multi-dimensional people, but it isn’t fleshed out outside of these brief moments.
Capturing the agony of the Holocaust and war is an inconceivable feat for most, performances rarely challenging the expectations of audiences. Within August Diehl, there’s a measure of the pain Max has endured, a heart-breaking description and distressing outburst at the revelation of his wife and son’s execution method. Gradually, Max’s inner turmoil of infiltrating the Nakam, the Jewish group planning this mass retribution, evolves into shredding of identity as he struggles with the path of revenge or a new life in Palestine. Diehl’s chemistry with Sylvia Hoeks as Ana, an aggressive woman working with the Nakam, introduces fresh aspects to the film’s dynamic, offering a more personal angle, but it too is left behind.
Drab, Moshe Mishali‘s cinematography is a wash-out. Understandably rejecting colour, the loss of hues and subtle tones to emphasise the destruction, or the industrial nature of the factories and workforce causes visual disinterest. Plan A aligns the questions of morality and vengeance for a determined knock-out, only to fail in fleshing out the key players of their story. Outside of the internal debates, Max struggles with, little is done for the audience to invest within the characters and story outside of historical significance.
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