Adapted from the novel of the same name by Owen Sheers, Resistance (2011) is director Amit Gupta’s first feature length film and stars Andrea Riseborough (last seen as Wallis Simpson in Madonna’s W.E. ) and journeyman Michael Sheen (next seen returning the role of Aro in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 ).
The year is 1944, D-Day has failed and the Nazis have crossed the Channel and invaded Britain. Within a remote village somewhere in the Olchon Valley, a group of women awake to find that all their husbands are missing and the village is being occupied by a small unit of German soldiers. Gupta’s film never goes into the details of why D-Day failed or how the Germans undertook their occupation – in fact, there is very little action in the film at all. Yet to criticise Resistance for gaps in its back-story would be to miss the intent of the director. This is not a piece of hypothetical history, but instead a highly successful exploration of how human relationships operate in extreme circumstances.
The career-defining performances from Riseborough as local girl Sarah and Tom Wlaschiha as German officer Albrecht are both exquisite. Their dynamic is one of conflict and attraction, played beautifully throughout, with the drama of each scene is accentuated by a focus on the details of hands and gestures.
Majestic shots of the beautiful and paradoxically grim Welsh landscape are contrasted with intimate scenes in small rooms, which lend these moments a poetic and intense emotion. Then there is the gentle use of silence in moments of high drama; particularly potent in a snowstorm scene where the Germans aid Sarah (Riseborough) in rescuing a lost sheep from her farm.
Sheen performs well as Tommy, but his lack of screen time (deceptive, considering the trailer and top billing) makes it one of his less consequential roles. That said, the subplots and secondary characters engage with their own stories. Iwan Rheon as George, one of the few on-screen resistance fighters, is particularly moving as he struggles with his own moral quandaries.
Resistance is nothing less than an exacting examination of how relationships and bonds can survive through extreme hardship – a film that will leave you with a haunting sadness, harrowing yet beautiful.
Read our interview with the film’s director Amit Gupta here.