Triumph of the Spirit
Directed by Robert M. Young
This earnest but woefully misguided film (the first major feature to be shot on location at Auschwitz) tells the real-life story of Salamo Arouch, the Greek Jewish middleweight boxing champ of the Balkans who survived his two-year internment in the camp by winning more than 200 bouts arranged by his Nazi captors. (Losers were sent to the gas chambers.)
Willem Dafoe stars as Arouch and gives a disciplined performance. It's a shame his restraint wasn't catching. Director Robert Young (Dominick and Eugene) and the rest of the cast, including Robert Loggia as Arouch's father and Edward James Olmos as a Gypsy inmate, play up the melodrama in the script by Andrzej Krakowski and Laurence Heath. Worse, an intrusive score by Cliff Eidel-man pumps emotions to a fever pitch.
Arouch, who now runs a shipping firm in Israel, served as consultant. But the film emerges as another Holocaust Gothic — a fiction that trivializes unspeakable horror by adding entertainment elements. In the process, only convention is served.
star ratingCBS Films
star ratingRelativity Media
star ratingOpen Road Films
star ratingWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
star ratingThe Weinstein Company