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The movie's three main characters are caught in the struggle between Swing music and the pressureto join the HJ's. Arvid, who is partially paralized, and is therefore 'unacceptable' by the Nazis, is a rabid Swing fan (which a large part of is a rebellion against the people who won't accept him). Peter is struggling with his father's 'disappearance' (he was taken by the Nazis a few years before the events of the movie). Thomas is just looking for acceptance, which he doesn't seem to get from his family or friends, so he willingly turns into a HJ - just to satisfy his need. The friends split up, turn against each other, and each goes towards his tragic end.
The story in itself is predictable, but since the performances of the actors are quite good, and the period and subject matter of the films are not your obvious WW2 movies, it is a very enjoyable one (even just for knowldge's sake).
But what makes this film truly superlative is its honest dealings with ordinary Germans' motivations for complacency towards or participation in Nazism. In Nazi Germany it was in everybody's best interest (save the Jews) to play along. From Peter's mother who just wants her children to live happily and avoid the terrible fate of their father to Thomas Berger (Christian Bale) who finds acceptance and encouragement for the first time, they do so for the reasons that would tempt each of us sorely. The horrible truth of the Holocaust is that, like the Germans, very few of us possess the selflessness and moral courage it would have required to oppose the evil tide of Nazism. Swing Kids is almost alone in its portrayal of this chilling truth among Holocaust and World War II films. Robert Sean Leonard's portrayal of this moral struggle for understanding and courage is very moving. (Of course, there's noone better at playing angst-ridden. c.f. Dead Poet's Society.)
As he dances his last dance, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, the world spinning around him, he finds a rare kind of release that is perhaps found only on the dance floor. And yes, his brother's cries, "Swing Heil! Swing Heil!", in the final scene give me a lump in the throat every time. For all these reasons and more, Swing Kids is an excellent film. Shame that there are no extras on the DVD.
This movie is relatively unknown, but excellent nonetheless. Keep an eye out for a young Noah Wyle ("Dr. Carter" on ER) as a Hitler Youth group leader. The music is splendid.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great for teaching the Holocaust as a visual of the thorough propaganda used by Nazi Germany! The ending is definitely cheesy (and a few kids always seem to comment), but overall... Read morePublished 1 month ago by lt
Very entertaining and based on how things were in Germany with young people during the Nazis years.Published 1 month ago by R. Ron
Good fictiohnal account about the German kids victimized by the Nazis because of their love of jazz and unwillingness to conform - sensitively told, great jazz music and swing... Read morePublished 1 month ago by LittleBritches