WARSAW Ghetto survivor Jack P. Eisner's autobiography is the basis for "War and Love," an inept movie about two teens whose love affair survives Hitler's Final Solution.
It has the makings of a great love story, but never lives up to its pompous title, which at the very least calls for a script by Tolstoy. Hollywood veteran Abby Mann, who wrote "Judgment at Nuremberg" and "Ship of Fools," pens the poorly adapted drama, which is distributed by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, a team that usually specializes in tacky teen comedies and cut-rate action adventures.
The result is a badly acted, cheaply made movie that's meant to make the holocaust accessible to young people. But it grossly underplays the decimation of the Jewish people.
Moshe Mizrahi, whose "Madame Rosa" won an Oscar for best foreign film in 1977, directs a polyglot cast led by an American amateur and supplemented by the excellent actors of the Warsaw Jewish Theater.
Sebastian Keneas, a hunky-looking high schooler, stars as Jacek, a Jewish teen who falls in love with the girl next door just as the Nazis overrun Poland. The script focuses on the romance, though young Jacek organizes his own underground, smuggles food to his family and neighbors, and eventually is captured by the Nazis.
Unfortunately, Keneas, who narrates much of the film, simply can't act. This is, after all, his first role ever, though costar Kyra Sedgwick is at least an actress. A pretty young American soap opera starlet, she's quite good as Jacek's girlfriend Halina, a Jewish girl who pretends to be Catholic to escape the Nazis.
They make an attractive couple, but there are long, stifling, antiseptic love scenes that run on and on, unedited like most of the movie. Shot on location in Poland and Hungary, the movie is sometimes impressive, but the filmmakers blow authenticity when Halina gives Jacek a keepsake, one of those plastic trolls with the mashed-in face, made in the early '70s and sold next to cash registers.
Someday, perhaps, Eisner's remarkable life will become a movie classic. But in this version, his story is churned into mush.