Defiance follows the Bielski brothers, a group of Jewish partisans that helped save the lives of Jews and kill Germans (and their pesky collaborators). The reality of what the Bielski brothers did was simply survive and avoid fighting at all costs. Defiance director Edward Zwick wanted to add a little Zionist spirit by portraying the Bielski brothers as Nazi hunting Jews. The Bielski’s also aided the Soviet partisans and are said to have participated in the Naliboki massacre. This massacre involved mass killing of the people in the Polish town Nalibok. Of course, “survivors” of the Bielski group firmly deny this.
Defiance portrays the Bielski brothers as heroes for stealing and looting from the Slavic people of Belarus. In the film, members of the Soviet army even call the Bielski brothers “Jewish bandits.” Well, I guess these Jewish bandits are doing their thieving for a good kosher cause. Daniel Craig stars in Defiance as Tuvia Bielski, the leader of the group. Daniel Craig is a gentile in real-life and his character has a certain Aryan sensibility about him that may be misleading to film going audiences. When Tuvia kills a man in Defiance, he does it with meaning. Whether it be the collaborators that killed his father or a mutinying kinsman, Tuvia kills in a profound manner. This is certainly not like the cowardly murdering nonsense carried about well equipped and U.S. backed Israelis in Gaza.
The real Bielski Partisans
Typically, all the gentiles in Defiance are portrayed as evil Jew killers and traitors of the Jews. The only man to truly help the Jewish people is lynched and has a sign attached to him that says “Jew Lover.” Even the Soviet partisan leader friend of Zus Bielski stabs him in the back by retreating. Essentially, the one time friend of Zus has left the Bielski partisans like sheep for slaughter by inhuman Aryan butchers. Defiance does not try to hide its portrayal of gentiles as those that lack proper “human” morals. The partisans speak of this gentile animal behavior throughout the film. However, to be fair, there is a lot of fighting and bickering between the Jewish Bielski partisans.
One of the Bielski brothers, Aron, does not have much of a role in Defiance. His character is simply a scared child who has been shocked by the incomprehensible horrors of gentile savagery. Aron’s lack of “character” and stability in Defiance might be for a reason. The real-life Aron Bielski, now in his eighties, and going by the name Aron Bell, was recently arrested on grand theft of swindling a 93-year-old woman, a Catholic survivor of the Holocaust. One has to wonder how Aron went from a savior of the Jews to an elderly white collar criminal. Nonetheless, Aron Bielski is a holocaust hero.
Mugshot of Aron "Bell" Bielski
Defiance seemed to borrow a little material from the Soviet cinematic masterpiece Come and See (1985) directed by Elem Klimov. The film is set in Belraus and follows a young boy who joins a group of Soviet partisans and sees the horror of the Nazi SS and their allies. Come and See is one of those rare truly horrifying films that does not give in to petty sentimentalism as Defiance does. I won’t go into similarities between the two films as it is tedious, but those that have seen both films will probably be disgusted by the “borrowing” Defiance director Edward Zwick has so freely taken advantage of. Come and See, although a Soviet propaganda film, is a film about human suffering and horrors. Defiance is a film about moral superiority and heroic fantasies.
Defiance does not do much to separate it itself from films similar to it. It features a few exciting action sequences and people getting killed. Actors Daniel Craig and Live Schreiber (who play the two main Bielski brothers) are the only interesting acting performances. I also liked this little Jewish intellectual character who accidentally blows himself up during a heroic act. It was like a bad joke on Edward Zwick’s Part.