When it comes to movies that focus on the tragic plight of the Jews and reflect on World War II, we can easily think of “Schindler’s List”, “The Pianist”, “A Beautiful Life” and so on. The movie brings us back to the battlefield time and time again, experiencing the cruelty of war and the unfathomable human nature.
The film “Persian Lesson” is adapted from a short story by the famous German screenwriter Wolfgang Kolhaze. The story itself is inspired by real events. This film tells not only the story of the Jews, but the story of the entire human race. One group pushed another group to the limit of death, and they survived tenaciously. This film was nominated as the best international film for the 93rd Oscar and was also selected as the official recommendation unit of the 10th Beijing International Film Festival.
The German philosopher Adorno once said: “After Auschwitz, writing poetry is cruel.” However, in order to survive, one may have to invent a poetic language.
Chance of survival
The story in the film took place in 1942, when the German army executed a large number of Jews. On the truck driving to the execution site, a tall man took out a book and wanted to exchange half a loaf with a short man beside him. The tall man said that the book was worth thousands of loaves. But everyone knows that no matter what book, no bread can save lives at this time.
But the short man still exchanged with him. The short man couldn’t understand the text in the book, so he asked how the book got it. The tall man answered that the landlord had escaped, so he took the book easily. It was a Persian book. On the title page, there was a person’s name-Reza, with “Bawbaw” written in it, and the tall man told him that “Bawbaw” meant father.
All people in a car were shot. The short man fell to the ground and pretended to be dead before the gun was fired, but was discovered by German soldiers. When he was about to kill him, he said: I am not a Jew, I am a Persian. And took out this book to testify. The German soldier remembered that Captain Koch, who was in charge of logistics in the concentration camp, had said that he needed a Persian. He caught a reward, so he brought the short man to Koch.
Koch flipped through the book and asked, “Your name is Reza?” He nodded. “What does Bawbaw mean?” He said his father meant it. “Where is the capital of Iran?” “Tehran.” Koch asked him to read a paragraph of this book. He said: I can’t write or read, I can only speak daily oral English.
Koch thought for a while and thought it made sense, so he let him speak a piece of Persian casually. He hesitated a little, but soon made a strange noise. Koch asked him what he was talking about, and he replied: “People are still afraid when they see the sunset fading to the west, but when the sky suddenly darkens.”
No one knows where this passage came from, and what he said. , No one knows. But this poetic remark still won Koch’s favor, so he let him do the chores in the kitchen where the officers are cooking, and let him teach Persian after the meal. The captain is going to memorize 4 words a day. He estimates that the war will continue for two more years, so that he can learn more than 2,000 words. Because the captain’s brother is in Iran, he plans to open a German restaurant in Iran in the future.
From father and mother, brothers and sisters, to household daily use, daily life, food and meals, and even expressions such as “I love you”, how did this short Jew called “Reza” “invent” through different pronunciations from? It’s incredible.
When watching this film, the audience does not care about the protagonist’s original name, but calls him “Reza”. This exotic name is his amulet. “Reza” opens a fictional chain.
“Persian” for two people
It is no easy task to rely on one’s own temporary “invention and creation” to produce Persian that belongs only to oneself. In any case, it is almost impossible for a person who does not understand Persian to “invent” thousands of Persian words in an instant.
There are still a few harsh and rigid conditions: First, whether it is a German or a hardworking Jew, there cannot be a person who understands Persian around; second, Reza must remember how he pronounces “fork” and how Pronounce “spoon”… so that when you think of another item’s pronunciation, you won’t repeat it. Reza often used the method of “questioning” Captain Koch to review the “Persian” he invented, so as not to forget or repeat it.
One day, the Germans captured a British pilot, who was said to be a Persian. A German concentration camp guard who hated Reza was very happy, and escorted the British prisoner to the prison, hoping to prove through their dialogue that Reza was not a Persian. But because Reza had a very good relationship with the inmates in the cell, after the arrival of the real Persian, a fellow inmate killed him and exchanged his life for Reza’s life.
Once, when Koch asked Reza what the “tree” said, he answered “radj”, and Koch remembered that the bread was “radj”, so he beat Reza violently, saying that he was impersonating a Persian. Reza had to explain that “bread” and “tree” are the same word in Persian, just as “castle” and “lock” are the same word in German.
In the film “Persian Language Lesson”, language becomes the most private weapon of resistance for the persecuted, rather than a tool for communication between people. Language communication and anti-communication are here like a double-sided beast. As a saying goes: all understanding is the sum of misunderstandings. There was a time when Koch and Reza had a very good relationship. Reza could call his name directly, and Koch would secretly give him more food. Reza brought the food back to the prison to help him more in need. People. Koch thinks he understands Reza, but Reza has no intention.
Language has multiple aspects, not a single communication function. In extreme environments, human language is more likely to deceive more than truth, cover more than honesty, and more estranged than connected. More often, language is a kind of magic, and it will be correspondingly distorted in the social environment. The father of the hero in “German Lesson” distorted the good in German into evil, and distorted the “happiness of duty” into ” The sin of due diligence”. “Persian Language Lesson” is a reversed mirror image of “German Lesson”. The male protagonist in the film uses lies to bring the living and the dead into the real world of existence.
At the end of the film, after the Allied forces landed in Normandy, they soon approached the German camp in France, so the top commander of the camp decided to destroy all the evidence in the concentration camp and destroy all the remaining prisoners at the same time according to Berlin’s instructions.
When Captain Koch learned of the news, he immediately went to the prison to leave Reza and escorted him to an unknown place. On the way, when Koch accused Reza of giving him all his food for someone he didn’t know, Reza said what could be called an aphorism: “Just because you don’t know his name, you say he is An unknown person? Actually, he is no worse than you.”
Captain Koch took off his German uniform on the way to escape, and there was a small plane 10 kilometers away that could take him to Tehran. Of course Reza would not follow him, so the two broke up and went on their own. When Koch entered Iran, he explained his situation in the “Persian” he had learned, but the Iranians did not understand what he was talking about.
When Iranian border officers discovered that he was a German defector, they immediately arrested him. On the other side, when Reza answered questions from the Allies, the most touching scene in the movie appeared: “How many people are in your concentration camp?” “About 25,000 to 30,000.” “You Can you remember the names of some people?” “The information is registered, you can check it.” “But the information has been destroyed by them.” “I can still remember the last names and first names of 2,840 people.” “2840 A name?”
So, Reza’s original “Persian” has a new meaning: it becomes the proof that the 2,840 Jews once existed. As Reza slowly spit out the names of his dead compatriots one after another, his unhurried voice gradually attracted everyone in the Allied asylum, and those strange and simple words poked into everyone’s heart. .
”Persian Language Lesson” uses such abstract “symbols” to complete the reflection and accusation of war. Although the audiovisual impact is not strong, it has a powerful force. It was a dull scream, but also a sad cry.
There is also an impressive plot in the film. When Koch has mastered a large number of “Persian” words, he can use this language to tell his life experience and write poetry. He read the poem he wrote to Reza: The wind sends the clouds to the east, where there are souls longing for peace everywhere. I know I will be happy, wherever the clouds drift.
No matter in any language, this poem uses the simplest and simplest vocabulary. The tone of the poem is sincere and soothing, and it expresses anti-war emotions in a pleasant tone. But we cannot ignore that it came from a Nazi captain.
”Persian Language Lesson” subtly responds to George Steiner’s question of “Language and Silence”. Steiner is a well-known critic of humanism and a person who has a deep memory of the “holocaust.” He once asked a famous question in “Language and Silence”: “We now know that a person can read Goethe and Rilke at night, can play Bach and Schubert, and go to work in Auschwitz in the morning. To say that he read these books but didn’t know the meaning, played these music but didn’t understand the sound, this is a pretense. In what way should this knowledge have an impact on literature and society?”
The exciting plots in the film are staged one after another, and the novel drama conflicts promote the ups and downs of the plot, which fully demonstrates the interlacing of good and evil and warmth and indifference in human nature.
George Steiner’s question ultimately rests on the bearing of humanity and morality in art. Why does the longer civilization progress, the stronger the brutal violence? And art is often not resisting political violence, but obeying it, even making it look more elegant. Another way of saying this is more common is that art is purely for its own sake, keeping a distance from history. In fact, “Persian Language Lesson” also gave its answer to this topic. Koch was not forgiven for his inner warmth, as some viewers summed it up brilliantly: when he uttered a “Persian” word, it was a living person who fell; when he read a poem, What burned was a large body of innocent people. Reza’s Jewish name was hidden, he survived, and more Jews were thrown into the crematorium.
At the time of the defeat of the Nazis, the commander hurriedly put the list and files of the death row in the burning fireplace. Leaving no traces means “checking out this person”, as if the evil deeds are like disappearing smoke.
”Persian Language Lesson” has a strong retrospective nature. The outside scene of the concentration camp is filled with icy mist, symbolizing the chilling years. The determination of this movie is to penetrate and illuminate it. The most direct and deepest meaning of the film lies in how the language and words record the souls of the dead and engrave disasters. If history is regarded as a salvage job, at the end, when Reza reads the names of the dead one by one, the historical purpose of the film is also realized.
The film presents the fate of the two protagonists in a montage way. Some people might imagine another ending: why not let Reza be there when Koch is seen through? How strong is the situation like that, will Koch feel heartache or understand it? This hypothesis believes that Koch’s trust in Reza, his kindness, and the two people’s time together based on “Persian”, will eventually become an emotional tension booster. As a result, everything is likely to end in the entanglement of human nature, and the emotional contradiction between the two worlds rushes to the forefront of history.
However, the film has not been so evasive and negligent, blurring the historical judgment. In the face of tens of thousands of dead souls, a period of “teacher-student friendship” under duress is not worth mentioning. What’s more, Reza was not saved by Koch-his life belonged to him. “Persian Language Lesson” is a heavy look back, and any art on the subject of slaughter must be a heavy look back. The word “life” is not trivial, it is not a tortured rag doll that can be restored to its original state once it is ironed.
At the end of the film, the two protagonists are placed in two time and space, holding up a determined attitude. It reminds us once again: Koch’s “Persian” utopia looks beautiful, but it is always built on tens of thousands of corpses. In any case, historical morality will not allow it to last longer.