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The Champion of Auschwitz review – Polish boxer fights to live in sturdy drama


Incredible true story of boxing champ who fought for his life in Auschwitz to be screened in UK cinemas

Dramatising the true story of Teddi Pietrzykowski, an internee who fought to entertain the guards, this is a solid, occasionally sentimental tale

Piotr Glowacki as Tadeusz Pietrzykowski in The Champion of Auschwitz.

Quiet dignity … Piotr Glowacki as Tadeusz Pietrzykowski in The Champion of Auschwitz. Photograph: Robert Palka/Iron filmsLeslie FelperinWed 1 Sep 2021 19.00 AEST

Last modified on Wed 1 Sep 2021

The remarkable story of a Polish boxer who fought for survival inside the notorious Nazi-German death camp Auschwitz.

This cleanly hewn drama from Poland, surely destined to be Poland’s submission for the Academy Awards, tells the true story of Tadeusz Pietrzykowski, AKA “Teddi”, a (non-Jewish) Polish bantamweight boxer who was one of the earliest prisoners at Auschwitz. There have actually been a couple of other films about Pietrzykowski over the years, which might explain why writer-director Maciej Barczewski, making an impressive debut here, doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how Teddi fought Nazis at the start of the war during the siege of Warsaw in 1939. Instead, a few slow-motion flashbacks are deemed sufficient to ground the story while the film settles down to the grim business of following Teddi as he tries to survive the camp by getting assigned to a work detail. Inevitably, a lot of this work involves disposing of the dead, and trying not to listen to the screams as Jews deemed too weak for work assignments are herded into the gas chamber on their arrival at the camp.https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/5CS7KWnRU64?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed

When a German officer recognises Teddi from his prewar fighting career, an opportunity opens up for Teddi to fight in a makeshift ring for the entertainment of the bored German soldiers. When he survives his first bout thanks to his exceptional skills in dodging punches, he gets an extra ration of bread and starts sharing it with the other men. He grows fond of a teenager named Janek (Jan Szydlowski) who, like Teddi, keeps managing to duck out of the grasp of death and go on surviving.

If you don’t already know about Pietrzykowski’s story, there’s genuine suspense in watching and hoping that this decent guy, played with tremendous physical prowess and quiet dignity by Piotr Glowacki, will make it through. There are a few sentimental touches that grate, particularly the deployment of hokey Catholic symbolism and the obligatory training montage, while some might find a few of the Nazi characters a bit too sympathetic given the circumstances. Nevertheless, the result is a sturdy work, backed with a lovely full orchestral score.

The Champion of Auschwitz is released on 3 September in cinemas.

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Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/sep/01/the-champion-of-auschwitz-review-polish-boxer-fights-to-live-in-sturdy-drama

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This entry was posted on September 3, 2021 by in History, WW2 and tagged , , .

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