DVD Review: ‘Resistance’

Ignore the bombastic DVD/Blu-ray cover with its armour-clad Nazi soldiers and pyrotechnics – the newly released Resistance (2011) couldn’t be much further away from an exploitative, WWII romp. From debut British director Amit Gupta – and adapted from the 2007 novel of the same name by Owen Sheers – the film is a strange, ethereal piece set in a remote Welsh village outside of Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, now occupied by German forces after the hypothetical failure of the 1944 D-Day landings.

Central to the narrative (or what there is of a defined narrative) is 26-year-old farmer’s wife Sarah Lewis (the consistently compelling Andrea Riseborough), who awakes one morning to find that her husband Tom (played by Tomos Eames in a series of flashbacks) has deserted the village along with the rest of the male inhabitants, presumably to join a local resistance force. Consequently, a small German task force – headed up by Tom Wlashiha’s commanding officer Albrecht – occupy the valley under special orders from Himmler to obtain a significant historical artifact.

Disenchanted by the horrors of war, Albrecht seemingly disobeys his superiors, preferring to remain in the valley until he can engineer an escape for himself and his men, potentially to America. However, a number of resistance freedom fighter still operating in the area (including Michael Sheen’s Tommy Atkins and young sniper George, played by Iwan Rheon) seem to have different plans for both the village’s now ‘collaborating’ women and the Albrecht’s troops.

Resistance is an extremely brave choice of first film for Gupta, presenting a minimalist, dialogue-light, atmospheric drama pervaded by a sense of hopelessness and defeat. Little narrative conflict is resolved over the course of the film and relationships remain icy throughout, between both the German forces and villagers and also within the remaining group of women. Riseborough’s Sarah is a stout, stoic protagonist, seemingly emotionally crippled by the departure of her beloved husband and now operating simply on survival mode. Likewise, Wlashiha impresses as the besieged Albrecht, reluctant to betray his nation but disillusioned with the prolonged Nazi war effort and by tales of horror from back on the continent.

Gupta certainly looks to have a bright future in the industry, yet his debut film is perhaps a little to happy to rest on the laurels of its well-orchestrated melancholic tone and atmosphere to really turn heads. Resistance is not the first work of fiction (or even film) to present an alternative-history account of the Nazi invasion of Britain. Though a number of radio reports and a surreal scene involving a swastika-adorned county fair help to flesh out this hypothetical universe, there is little or no satisfying didactic or allegoric meaning beneath the film’s icy exterior, arguably to its detriment.

You can read our intereview with director Amit Gupta here.

Daniel Green