"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" - Edmund Burke
Winner of the Oscar® for Best Foreign Language Feature in 1965, Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos’ The Shop on the High Street is one of the cornerstones of World Cinema, and perhaps the most internationally renowned film of the Czech New Wave.
Antonin ‘Tono’ Brtko is a poor carpenter appointed by his Nazi brother-in-law to be 'Aryan controller' of an old Jewish widow’s sewing shop in a Nazi-occupied Slovakian town in 1942.
The widow, Rozalie (Yiddish theatre legend Idá Kaminská, nominated here for a Best Actress Oscar® for her performance) is near deaf, isolated and partially sighted. Barely even registering there is a war going on, she fails to fully realize the implications of the context in which she lives. Believing Tono is simply her new assistant, the two develop a tentative friendship that sees him maintaining that fiction as he attempts to protect her from the encroaching Nazi horror.
Moving effortlessly from drama to humour to tragedy, The Shop on the High Street is a complex political morality tale of common lives disturbed and destroyed by war. A story of loyalty, betrayal, cowardice and heroism, it is a scathing exploration of how minor compromises can lead to complicity in the horrors of a totalitarian regime. It asks every spectator: 'If it had been you, what would you have done?'
“The most moving film about anti-Semitism ever made”
- Kenneth Tynan
"A masterpiece, a flawless examination of the toll of indecision and the penalty of passive decency”
- Eleanor Perry (Oscar-nominated screenwriter - David and Lisa, Diary of a Mad Housewife, The Swimmer), Life Magazine, February 1966
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