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Film Of The Week War damage

MARIA DUARTE recommends a gripping thriller on the terrible dilemma faced by a young Jewish girl in nazi-occupied Norway during WWII

The Birdcatcher (15)
Directed by Ross Clarke

Inspired by true events, The Birdcatcher follows 14-year-old Norwegian-Jewish girl Esther (a phenomenal Sarah-Sofie Boussnina) who, on attempting to flee the nazi round-up in 1942, is forced to conceal her identity and her gender in order to escape detection.

She ends up at an isolated farm whose owners are nazi sympathisers. Their son Aksel (Arthur Hakalahti), a sufferer from acute cerebral palsy, finds a kindred spirit in Esther whom he decides to help by keeping her secret.

He tells her that his father Johann (Jakob Cedergren) hates the British but the Jews even more so. Esther, pretending to be a boy, tells him her name is Ola and her parents were killed by the Brits, when in fact it was at the hands of the Germans.

Johann, who collaborates with the nazis to keep his farm, takes a shine to the hard-working Ola. He sees her as the son he has always wanted as he considers his own flesh and blood to be weak and useless due to his condition.

Unwittingly, Esther catches Aksel’s mother (Laura Birn) sleeping with the enemy and after the war she is labelled a nazi slut and spat at.

Seen through the eyes of its haunting young protagonist, this tense and agonising drama, directed by Ross Clarke and written by Trond Morten Kristensen, begs the question to what lengths you would go to save yourself.

It is heartbreaking viewing and a stark reminder of how people are dehumanised in order to carry out despicable acts.

At a time when, as in the 1930s, the far right, nationalism and the populist movements are on the rise, this film is a major wake-up call.

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