David at the Movies: The man who saved Jewish children
Much discussed on TV in the run-up to its release, this is the true story of Nicholas Winton, a young British stockbroker who helped fund and organise the rescue of 669 Jewish children from Prague fleeing Nazi persecution ahead of the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in September 1939. Fifty years later some of those he saved paid tribute to their rescuer on a television show.
The Prague scenes – panic and looming chaos – are vividly captured despite the limitations imposed by a non-blockbuster budget. Johnny Flynn gives a believable portrait of an earnest young man fighting the bureaucratic obstacles to the transportation of hundreds of children. There are harrowing goodbyes at the train station to parents who we know will not live to see their children again.
In the 1980s scenes Anthony Hopkins plays the now knighted Winton, embarrassed by the hoopla that attends his exposure as a hero and emotionally scarred by the knowledge of what happened to the children (millions of them) who did not escape Hitler’s hideous plan to exterminate European Jewry. A scene when Sir Nicholas is reduced to tears had the same effect on most of the audience at my local multiplex.
This is another small – and timely – movie on a big theme, reminding us of the great horror that was the Holocaust in a month when the population of Gaza must be feeling that an Apocalypse has been visited on their ghetto-like homeland.