To Be or Not to Be
Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1942
In Nazi-occupied Poland, a theater troupe are swept up in a complex plot of espionage to resist the SS. Using their skills as thespians, the troupe puts on different characters and roles at the drop of a hat, armed only with their pretentious pride in their halfway-decent skills and love for their country. Employing a multitude of genre forms – including black comedy, thriller-spy plot, cheeseball romance, and slapstick/screwball antics – To Be or Not to Be remains a classic meditation on identity, courage and hope in the face of the void.
“One might call it a tragical farce or a farcical tragedy – I do not care and neither do the audience. The picture plays – and that’s the only important thing in this issue.”
“Lubitsch was able to walk the very narrow path between the absurd and the realistic.”