|Directed by:||Alberto Negrin||Rating:||TV-MA|
|Release Date:||2002||Running Time:||104 mins.|
|Language:||Italian (English subtitles)||Genre:||Drama|
|More Info:||Bio of Giorgio Perlasca||Category:||Feature Film|
Based on the incredible true story of the “Italian Schindler,” a man saves the lives of over five thousand Jews by posing as a Spanish diplomat and tricking Nazi officials, risking his own life in the process. Perlasca: The Courage of a Just Man is the riveting, first-time account of his heroic story, which The Village Voice deemed “more courageous than Spielberg.”
“There’s no time to explain the diplomatic ropes to you,” a friend briefs Perlasca before his crucial meeting with a ruthless military leader, during which, if his lies are discovered, his friend tells him, “you’ll be arrested as a spy and tried, or more likely, you’ll be shot on the spot.”
A nail-biting drama of one man’s remarkable heroism, Perlasca follows its gentile protagonist from one inspiring display of altruism and bravery to the next. While on a business trip in Hungary, Perlasca witnesses Nazi atrocities and feels impelled to act. Postponing his own safe departure back to Italy, he spends the money he was supposed to use to buy cattle on bribing Nazi officials to release Jews from deportation and to house his refugees at the Spanish consulate.
During one of the bleakest episodes in history, Perlasca’s actions remind audiences of the possibility of human goodness triumphing over evil. In the spirit of true kindness, Perlasca minimizes his own heroics. When someone asks him why he’s doing what he’s doing, his answers with a shrug, “What would you do in my shoes,” suggesting that he simply doesn’t know any other way to act.
In fact, Perlasca’s son says that in real life, his father “just thought he was doing his duty as a human being.” He truly believed that any man that was in his position would have done the same thing.
Perlasca’s heroism was so amazing in real life that it was easy for filmmakers to wow audiences while sticking directly to the truth of his story. Some of the film’s most shocking scenes are drawn from reality, like when Perlasca rescues two children from deportation and certain death right under the nose of Adolf Eichman, “the architect of the Holocaust.” Although it seems like cinematic enhancement, the incident is reported to have actually occurred in fact.
One of the most exceptional aspects of Perlasca’s character is that even though he fought in the trenches of the most miserable human suffering, he never lost sight of the importance of joy and happiness. In the film, when he meets a skinny little Jewish boy who’s too depressed to talk, let alone play, Perlasca rounds up all the little children at the consulate and sits them in a circle for a lively game. One by one, Perlasca plucks the children from the circle until only the little boy remains as the winner. As the hero hoists him up on his shoulders, the little boy can’t help but smile at his victory. Such a win might seem trivial, but it’s the simple delight the boy needs to keep going.
Ultimately, the film’s hero knows which rules are meant to be broken. He lies, cheats, and steals, but no one would argue against his morals. Even when all the odds are stacked against him, and his allies doubt him, Perlasca trusts his own gut and remains steadfast in his beliefs. And, in doing so, he upholds the spirit of the highest law – the value of human life.
Perlasca is full of surprises, but one of the most shocking aspects of its hero’s story isn’t depicted on screen. After the war, the real Perlasca returned to his home in Padua to live out a humble, quiet life and never spoke about his war-time experiences. For forty-five years his heroism remained a secret.
It’s only recently that his memory has been properly honored and his incredible, inspiring story recounted through the making of this remarkable film.