Reviewed By: Nikki Baughan
Released: November 25
British filmmaker Amit Gupta hasn’t chosen an easy path with his first feature. In adapting Owen Sheers’ 2007 novel Resistance, he’s taken on a story that’s challenging thanks not just because of its remote Welsh location, but also because of its alternative take on British history that could easily have proved alienating if handled insensitively. Yet Gupta’s clarity of vision and directorial courage makes this an intriguing, striking début.
Set in a small village in the Olchon valley, the film opens as the women wake to discover that their men have disappeared in the middle of the night. It’s 1944, five years after the failed D-Day landings, and it’s not long before a small band of invading German soldiers stumble across the isolated women. Initially distancing themselves from the soldiers, as the months pass and the weather pass the villagers find themselves relying on the Nazis to fulfil the male roles of helping with livestock, fixing roofs and the like. Sarah (Andrea Riseborough) is determined to hold out, but finds herself getting closer to Captain Albrecht (Tom Wlaschiha), who has his own reasons for keeping his unit hidden in the Black Mountains..
Where Resistance works so well is in the expert marrying of the narrative with its environment. John Pardue’s haunting cinematography lingers on the mist-covered mountains, juxtaposing the sparse, tight-knight village with endless expanse of countryside that surrounds it; whether lone Welsh woman or Nazi soldier, all figures are reduced to their most vulnerable against this most imposing of landscapes. It’s the perfect backdrop for this poignant tale of isolation and desperation, the screenplay – adapted from the book by Gupta and Sheers – unafraid to have long moments of silence in which the audience is invited to absorb the true horror of the situation unfolding on screen. It’s also a snapshot of the importance of community, in whatever form that should take, and of the strength of the human spirit when faced with even the most extreme of situations.
There’s a sub-plot involving the efforts of a small group of Resistance fighters which adds some context as to what might be happening in the rest of the UK, but is rather unnecessary. For it’s with the central story of the women that the real themes of Sheers’ story come to life, and that Gupta’s talent for filmmaking comes to the fore.