CAPSULE: there were many death camps in the network run by the Nazi SS. There was only one that had an escape of any size. On October 14, 1943 there were 400 prisoners who attempted a mass escape from Sobibor. About 100 died in the attempt to leave the camp but 300 escaped, running literally for their lives away to freedom. This is the story of that escape. It is both a document of the barbarity to which the captives are subjected and at the same time it is an escape thriller. Directed by Konstantin Khabenskiy; written by Anna Chernakova, Michael Edelstein, Ilya Vasiliev; languages: Russian, German, Polish, English subtitles. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
By 1943 the Nazi SS had built and was operating a network of extermination camps to efficiently murder Jews and other captives. Victims were brought to Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and other camps. They were shipped from Germany and other captive countries, including France, Poland, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union, and were sent by railroad car, transported under barbaric conditions only to be murdered a short time after their arrival at the death camps. Of the death camps only camps Belzec, Treblinka, and Auschwitz could boast (if that is the word) of greater numbers of murders than the camp Sobibor.
The story follows the arrival of one batch of prisoners through ten days to their escape.
The new arrivals are asked if they know a craft. A prisoner warns one that she must immediately get a job--any job--just to stay alive. Those who cannot claim skill in some useful craft are murdered within minutes. The murder of the unskilled women is dramatized for the viewer. This is just one of the first barbarities visited on the women prisoners. The men could expect an even more painful end.
Director Konstantin Khabenskiy shows us a powerful view of the horrific, but the style remains a little reserved. Women are brought silently to gas chambers. Other dramatizations have shown a good deal more screaming. I cannot say which is the more historically accurate. After one escape attempt a group of prisoners are literally decimated. SOBIBOR is more disturbing than is Steven Spielberg's SCHINDLER'S LIST (1994). Each tends to be not so much about the murder of Jews as it is about the lucky few who would be survivors.
The director tantalizes the viewer by showing us scenes that would be repeated during the actual escape attempt. The prisoners invite a Nazi officer to take an expensive leather coat (stolen property) as a gift. We see bits of the escape plan that pay off (in more ways than one) during the actual escape. Then the tone of the film jumps from dour into a higher tempo with more action. While the entire film has been downbeat (to say the least) the film turns itself into a paean to freedom. It is strong change of tone. [Historical information from Wikipedia's article "Sobibor"]
I rate SOBIBOR a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5580266/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/sobibor
[My historical sources for this review were Wikipedia and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance web site. I will freely include facts from those two sources the history of the event. There are multiple dramatizations of the Sobibor escape and they much agree with each other on the precedence of events. I will trust them for accuracy.]
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2019 Mark R. Leeper