THE POPCORN REEL DVD REVIEW
New On DVD This Week: "The Rape Of Europa"


"The Rape Of Europa", one of the best documentaries of the new century, arrived on DVD in the U.S. and Canada this week and is now available.  (Photo: Menemsha Films)

By Omar P.L. Moore/September 18, 2008

The Rape of Europa is a must for history lovers, art lovers, and lovers of humanity.

Released in the U.S. and Canada on DVD this week, is "The Rape Of Europa", which works deeply and on multiple levels as mystery, drama, thriller, horror and crime story.  These adjectives aren't at all meant to trivialize the weighty and sensitive subject of the Holocaust against Jewish people by Nazi Germany during World War Two -- just an accurate portrayal of a powerful and fascinating experience.  Adolf Hitler was a budding art student and when seizing the reins of tyranny and fascism in Germany Hitler and the Nazis' campaign of terror and mass murder stole endless pieces of prized art by many Jewish artists and others throughout Europa.

Joan Allen, most recently seen on the big screen in last month's "Death Race", narrates this absorbing documentary, which is based on the book by Lynn H. Nicholas and written, produced and directed by Nicholas Berge, Nicole Newnham and Bobbi Cohen. 

The works of art stolen by the Nazis included some of Vincent Van Gogh's works.  Some of the art pieces are so penetrating in their power and beauty that it is a transfixing, even overwhelming experience to absorb them.  The artwork is the flame that keeps the human spirit intact, and at its heart, symbolizes the humanity of the people against the genocide and repression of the Nazis. 

One of the most disturbing aspects of "The Rape Of Europa" is the dichotomy of humanity: Hitler's deep love and appreciation for art and the rapacious nature of the Nazis with respect to artwork juxtaposed with the mass killings of men, women and children -- a deeply unsettling contradiction in humans that also rivets the viewer to her seat in both horror and bewilderment.  A moving experience, this two-hour journey through one of the twentieth's century's most heinous horrors is also a tribute to the resilience of the human heart. 

Several survivors of the Holocaust against the Jewish population across Europe are interviewed, as are relatives of those who weren't so fortunate to live through the Nazi nightmare, and one of the film's participants declares that "art belongs to humanity . . . art is what makes us human."  In the truest sense, the soul of art and creativity battled the seeds of murder, war and destruction -- and art won.  To paraphrase a legendary American 1960's civil rights leader, while watching "The Rape Of Europa" the very clear message is that art crushed to earth will rise again.

One of the film's most stirring moments comes within its last 30 minutes, where investigators set about rescuing surviving pieces of some of Europe's artistic masterpieces.  It is a heroic, moving moment, the actions of art's rescuers as a symbolic restoration of the human heart and soul, when one sees a man traveling for miles and miles and to numerous countries to recover art and return it to relatives of the artwork's owners, whether they be in Russia or Austria or elsewhere. 

"Europa" also digs into the political dynamics of the hallowed artwork and the circumstances of its existence in the wake of Nazi Germany incursions into France, for which, as the documentary cites, Hitler had an abiding affinity for as a cultural bastion of romance, sophistication and creativity.  The film casts a wide net, informing its viewer numerous accounts about Europe and the desecration of places of worship, and other sacred sites.  There is some rarely-seen footage of Hitler enjoying and appraising the artwork in several scenes -- a bizarre and awkward set of moments.  Hitler's soul had long been lost, but in the most unsettling sense, he probably thought that he was trying to reclaim it.  He is pictured smiling broadly and with admiration at the art that he sees.  The art that he desires however, is for himself and himself alone.

"The Rape Of Europa" doesn't lose its power on DVD (it was on the big screen in North America in 2007); it is only more intimate and poignant.  In its silent moments, "The Rape Of Europa" shakes us to our core; in its grander moments the film inspires viewers to look within themselves at their own ability to do good with their innate abilities and skills as a forceful tool against repression and as a righteous voice of freedom. 

One of the most effective portraits of triumph over terror, "The Rape Of Europa" is an absolute must for history lovers, art lovers and lovers of humanity everywhere.

"The Rape Of Europa" is now available on Netflix, Borders, Amazon.com, Blockbuster (both in store and online) and also at Menemsha Films at www.menemshafilms.com.


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