Ed Zwick Defiant at Cinema Society

Liev Schreiber, Daniel Craig. Courtesy of Paramount Vantage


More than usual, Nazi evil is driving the on-screen drama this awards season. The Reader, which earned Kate Winslet a Golden Globe as an SS prison guard; Valkyrie, aka the Tom Cruise Nazi Movie; Good, the little-seen Viggo Mortensen vehicle and portrait of an unlikely Nazi sympathizer; and Defiance, Ed Zwick’s true story of Jewish resistance fighters (played by Daniel Craig and Liev Schrieber, among others) in the woods of Belarus, which opens today following a brief Oscars run in December.

At the Cinema Society-hosted New York premiere on Monday, Zwick insisted that he and screenwriter Clayton Frohman hadn’t consciously jumped on the Nazi-flick bandwagon, explaining, “It’s definitely not part of a trend. We optioned the book 12 years ago—it’s just taken this long” to get it to the screen. He did concede, however, that the current moment might represent the peak of a cycle: “Within five or ten years, everyone of living memory of that time will be gone. It is the eleventh hour. And there may be some anxiety attached to that by people, some desire to get those stories done before they’re all gone.”

And, of course, do plenty of arguing about them. Like Zwick’s previous films The Siege and Blood Diamond, Defiance risks criticism for his ambitious subject matter, in this case for its portrayal of gun-wielding Jews who capably defend themselves and even take revenge on their persecutors. “I think it goes against a certain PC notion,” Zwick said. “It was even suggested by some that to tell the story of those who resisted in some sense diminished those who died. And I feel in fact that it’s quite the opposite, that the same life force and will that animated this group in fact was in the six million who died-they just didn’t have the chance to express it.”

It remains to be seen whether Quentin Tarantino will similarly have to defend Inglorious Basterds, his upcoming Jewish soldiers-vs.-Nazis revenge thriller. Zwick doubts it. “I suspect what he’s doing is like the other things Quentin has done, (which) is referring to other movies. I suspect it’s a version of The Dirty Dozen or something else.”