Last Chance, The

1808. THE LAST CHANCE (1945-Switzerland). With E.G. MORRISON, John Hoy, Ray REAGAN. Directed by LEOPOLD LINDTBERG. After Hitler came to power in Germany, Austrian- born director Leopold Lindtberg, who had been making films in Germany and his native country, exiled himself to Switzerland. Here is one of the films he was able to produce during this period: a tremendously gripping drama, humanist in its content that is crammed with stunning images and profound emotion. The story unfolds in northern Italy, during the autumn of 1943. World War II is raging: the Allies are slowly entering the country, to reclaim it from the Germans. The latter have been deporting Allied prisoners-of-war, two of whom escape from a train during a furious bombing raid. One is American, the other British, and what follows is a chronicle of their experiences as they trek through the countryside, attempting to make their way to neutral Switzerland. The Italian peoÂple are almost (but not quite, as you will tellingly see) collectively depicted as war-weary anti-fasÂcists who gladly come to the aid of the soldiers. There is the wily peasant farmer, who risks his life to shield them from fascist soldiers; the pretty young woman who has a brief, eloquent exchange with the Brit, and who is destined to interact in the lives of both soldiers; and a courageous priest (whose observation. “Don’t be afraid, we’re here to help each other,” sums up the spirit of the film). Then there are the refugees of all religions and nationalities, whose lives are at best torn apart and at worst completely destroyed by the war. Lindtberg has shot the film in a neo-realist style, on actual locations using both professional and non-professional actors. The critic Georges Sadoul has noted that “this semi-documentary film is a sincere and moving attempt to depict the possibilities of all peoples living together in peace, memorable for its striking sense of actuality and for the scenes on the Swiss frontier. It was a tremendous success…” Indeed, it not only earned a best film citation at the Cannes Film Festival and was named to the “New York Times” and National Board of Review’s ten-best films lists, but it is also of historical importance for being among the very first Swiss films to garner international acclaim. In English and various other languages, with English subtitles. 104 minutes. War Drama