The Shop on Main Street was a product of the Czech New Wave, arguably the most fertile period of Czech film history. However, though thematically it was linked to the best films of that period – Holocaust tended to feature significantly (directly or otherwise) in those movies, structurally it wasn’t, in that it wasn’t as whimsical or darkly comic like, say, Closely Watched Trains. The movie, often considered one of the most poignant depictions of that despicable and sad time of human history, is about a simple carpenter living in a small town who develops a wonderful friendship with an old Jewish lady while working as an Aryan comptroller at her shop, only for it to end on a devastatingly tragic note. The tragi-comic movie is essentially about the inherent ambiguity in human nature – the fact that just one moment of madness is all it takes to convert a friendly, sympathetic man with an unprejudiced mind into a raging fanatic. Shot in elegant black-and-whites and enacted wonderfully by its superbly chosen cast (especially its two principal leads), the movie manages to profoundly disturb its viewers and elicit a few wry smirks here and there with equal ease. Though a few more dollops of black humour might have alleviated the movie’s effectiveness, its simplicity and sensitiveness, however, remained in my mind even after the credits had rolled.
Directors: Jan Kadar & Elmar Klos
Genre: Drama/War Drama/Political Drama
Country: Slovakia (erstwhile Czechoslovakia)