Tragic and often difficult to watch, “Sobibor” sheds light on a ghastly and all-too-real concentration camp and the history of the actual uprising there.
Russian actor/director Konstantin Khabenskiy (“Night Watch”) does a commendable job behind the camera and in front of it.
The story takes place over 13 days, beginning with the performance of an exhausted-looking string ensemble that welcomes newcomers, who have no idea some are headed to the gas chamber.
A few people are spared to become part of a slave-labor workforce.
Karl Frenzel (Christopher Lambert – yes, the same one of “Highlander” fame) is the monster in charge of the camp. Khabenskiy plays the real-life Alexander Pechersky, a Soviet soldier transferred after a failed escape in Minsk. He is one of several who eventually concoct a plan to entice Nazi officers into deadly traps.
Khabenskiy doesn’t flinch from the torture and the abominations, which seem to become more intense at every turn, particularly when the Nazis have been drinking.
Toward the beginning of the film, women — who have been asked to remove their clothing — are herded into a gas chamber. Later, you’ll see a man viciously beaten because he refuses to drink cognac. This is one of the most brutal movies I ever have seen, depicting the sadistic joy the Nazis took in the physical, mental and emotional abuse of their prisoners.
Its third act is the most entertaining, with lots of action and escape plans carefully carried out.
Khabenskiy’s movie is solid and compelling, a welcome launch for the annual Lloyd M. Burstein Memorial Holocaust Film Series that will give those unfamiliar with this part of history a glimpse at a hell on earth, and on the heroes who led an escape, which always should be remembered.
It may not be an appropriate experience for children or the faint of heart, but it will inspire others with its story of grit and perseverance under unimaginable horror.
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