Volume 74, Number 40 | February 9 — 16, 2005

Koch On Film

Finding Neverland (+)

When you enter the theater, be sure the Fairy Queen sprinkles her dust on you which will enable you to accept the imagination of James Barrie (Johnny Depp). Depp has always captivated me in the roles he portrays on screen, and he does it again in his beautiful and sensitive portrayal of Barrie and the story of how “Peter Pan” came to be written.

Barrie appears to have had a loveless marriage with his wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell). In a park, he meets Sylvia Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four sons: Peter, George, Jack and Michael. His near daily meetings with Sylvia never involve so much as touching hands but Victorians, always proper in public, were probably more involved in sex behind the shutters than many middle-class Americans are today. So I’m not exactly sure how close and sexual their relationship actually was.

Barrie’s greatest joy was in creating imaginary worlds for the four boys and their mother who, with a frightening cough from an undisclosed disease, appears to be disintegrating before their very eyes. To my mind, Winslet is a bit too chunky to be convincing as having a physically deteriorating ailment.

Barrie’s friend, Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman), produces his plays on the London stage. Barrie’s last play was a failure, and although Frohman is unconvinced of the merits of the new play, “Peter Pan,” he undertakes to finance it. Historically, the role of Peter Pan is always played by a female, as was the case when Mary Martin played the role in the musical on Broadway many years ago.

Every character in the movie is lovingly portrayed, and there are no dry eyes in the audience when the lights go up. Let the fairy dust to do its job and you will enjoy this movie.

Watermarks (+)

There is a remarkable movie playing at The Quad Theater located on 13th Street in Manhattan. Its days there are numbered so do make plans to see it while you can.

“Watermarks” is a documentary on the lives of eight women who in their youth lived in Vienna and were members of a Jewish sports club called Hakoah (the strength in Hebrew). Their club was formed in 1909 because Jews were banned at existing sports clubs. These remarkable women, trained by a demanding coach, soon out swam their opponents in competitions and became well known in Austria as champions.

Their meets occurred in the 30s. The Anschluss took place in l938 when Germany and Austria were joined together under Hitler. He announced the merger in Vienna, and the newsreel report showed him being cheered by hundreds of thousands of Austrians. According to one of the Jewish women, Austrians were 98 percent Nazi, including many of her friends. The women, shown through home movies and snapshots, were remarkably beautiful. All were able to escape Austria ending up in England, the United States, South America and Israel. With the exception of one, all were alive at the completion of the film.

The conversations they had with each other and with the director/producer, Yaron Zilberman, are candid, insightful, humorous and delightful. Zilberman was in the audience at the Quad when I saw the film, and after the show, he gave a wonderful briefing on the making of the film and also took questions from the audience.

Anyone who would like to see a remarkable documentary should see this one. I would particularly recommend it to Jews interested in learning about these eight Jewish heroines; Christians and others who hated the Nazis and what they stood for; and those who believe they would have protected their Jewish friends.

One haunting aspect for me was to see a Star of David emblazoned on the Hakoah members’ swimsuits. Undoubtedly, it was placed there with pride by the members of the club. That yellow star was seen again when Hitler required it as a badge of humiliation for Jews throughout Nazi occupied Europe.

For most Jews, the documentary undoubtedly reinforces their belief in and support for the existence and security of the State of Israel which has as its first obligation and raison d’etre providing sanctuary for any Jewish community persecuted anywhere in the world. This includes those once again under attack in Europe and those forcibly converted to Christianity in Ethiopia centuries ago who now are reported to want to come home to both their ancient religion and homeland, Israel.

- Ed Koch

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