Continental European film producers were slow to focus on political and social injustices as the dominant themes after World War II. Heroism in America and Soviet World War II movies was not a significant theme, primarily because, with the exclusion of Switzerland and Sweden, other countries' dwellers either were part of the Nazi regime or collaborated with the rule. Therefore, the filmmakers, when making films, focused on the societies' immersion in the totalitarian ruling systems. Similar to other countries of Europe, excluding Switzerland and Sweden, all other countries in central Europe lived under Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes in the period between the Second World War. However, after the war, the continent split, and this influenced how the filmmakers made films. Germans, Slovaks, Czechs and Hungary embraced the Nazi regime, whereas Austria and three quarters of Germany embraced democracy. This is partly a contributing factor as to why Jan and Elmar settled on producing a film in this line of diversion to show how the Nazi regime operated (Votruba, 2011).
The Shop on Main Street is a film set in a Slovak town when Nazi power was dominating in German and Europe. Filming took place in Sabinov, eastern Slovakia. The setting depicted almost all central European towns during the World War II. It is in 1942; Hitler's army conquered almost the entire Europe through brutal force. Slovakia is just among the German-controlled countries where Nazi laws are in full force. Some of the results of the Nazi laws are the persecution and extermination of Jews. The movie blends multi-dimensional characters, who aid in enhancing richly nuanced performances, and drama. Notably, the movie does not employ the traditional models of narratives set in time of war, such as heroism and self-sacrifice (Votruba, 2011), and opts to focus on the morally undermined characters and the strategies they employ decision wise to survive, mostly in times of fascist laws at the expense of others. Probably, this is why the movie won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. In the movie, The Shop on Main Street, the objective was to deal with the brutal Nazi laws by addressing the moral dilemmas, which result owing to the implementation of the laws.
The small Slovakian town appears to have not felt the effects from the World War II, such as invasion, occupation of a large proportion by German fascism. Characters in the movie attempt to live in a manner, which they could achieve a normal life characterized by different levels of compromise, intentional ignorance, and complicity. During Sundays, the town dwellers rest, go to church services, and stroll around the main square. During the strolling, it is apparent that some of the strollers are in similar black uniforms, worn by the Nazi, but these particular ones have different signs. Such people represent those that have openly accepted the Nazi laws, an in turn, have received privileges of power and other privileges over the other town dwellers, such as the Jews and Slovakians. Similarly, during the World War II, the Czechs showed resistance to the Nazi regime; however, they settled for brutal punishments. The Slovakians, on the other hand, the embraced the Nazi regime, and, hence, saved themselves from the subsequent effects of the war. The Shop on Main Street explains why the small town in Slovakia, appeared isolated from the rest, but people within it lived differently. The Slovakia leaders embraced the Nazi regime, which left the other dwellers with no choice, except in the variation of the degree of acceptance of the Nazi rule (Banovac, 2005).
The movieThe Shop on Main Street depicts Tono as a lazy man, who is a carpenter by profession, but he feels content when he drinks, which he uses as a shield from his nagging wife. He appears to prefer the drinking when compared to working. Nonetheless, he is a man who rather preferred to resist the Nazi rules. The arising complication in his life, as stated, is his wife. This is because she appears to influence his husband. This is in terms of the conflict existing between them; Tono is resisting the Nazi rule, whereas his wife (Hana Slivkova) is collaborating with the Nazi rule. This is a typical moral dilemma. Two people living in a house as husband and wife, but their ideologies differ. In many cases, people who live together, often sail in the same or share the similar ideologies. This presents a dilemma, which Tono opts to solve by drinking, and not working. Apparently, Hana's collaboration is opportunistic, and she does this because of the opportunity to achieve both financial and social rewards. Tono has a brother-in-law by the name Marcus Kolkotsky, who has collaborated with the Nazi, and in return, he has achieved the leadership of the local fascists.
The two, Tono and Marcus show conflicting behaviors and interests, and owing to the greed of power depicted by Marcus, Tono shows little affection for Marcus. Marcus makes an offer to Tono, in his effort to declare Tono as the "Aryan Controller" or rather the administrator of a small textile shop managed by an elderly widow. Although there is war, the elderly Jewish widow appears to be an aware of the war. She even fails to know the reason behind Tono's entry to her textile shop, but she is convinced that Tono is there as an assistant. Tono finds himself again in a moral dilemma. Apparently, he hates his brother in law, who has just made this offer to him. He is not sure whether to accept it or not. However, after consulting a friend (Imro Kuchar), he settles on accepting the offer. Nonetheless, the friend advises him to accept the offer, but in disguise. Unlike earlier, where Tono solves the issue of avoiding his wife through drinking, in this dilemma, Tono opts to consult a friend, who offers a solution to the dilemma. It is not in his best interest to be at the shop.
Tono was still in a dilemma because he felt the elderly woman was innocent, and he was unable to communicate the main agenda of him being in the shop. Against all odds, he built a relationship with the woman. His easy-going nature, make the Jewish community recognize him, and they offer him payment to continue his stay in the shop in the fear that a cruel Aryan might take over and make life intolerable for them. The film The Shop on Main Street depicts the elderly woman as good, and this makes Tono further resist the Nazi rule by rejecting the fascist's propaganda. The elderly woman manages to become Tono's surrogate mother, and the Jewish community became a surrogate family to him. Therefore, it is apparent that Tono was not going to serve the initially intended purpose. When his brother-in-law sent him or declared him the new administrator of the textile shop, his intention was to use him to achieve his greedy power needs. In this situation, we saw Tono in a moral dilemma, and although it existed, the dilemma is gradually diminishing. This is because Tono is slowly turning out to be a protector, teacher and a helper. In comparison to Tono's earlier depiction of irresponsibility, a drunkard, this dilemma made him gain conscious, and became human against the brutality surrounding him (Crowther, 1966).
The objective of the fascists continues, and anti-Jewish pressure builds in the town. The dilemmas start building up also in Tono. Emotions conflict within him and his guilt, fear, and confusion add to the moral dilemmas. The film depicts Tono as confused, and not knowing what to do as the pressure continued, and Nazi rule exerts harsh punishments. For instance, we saw Tono welcoming the continuous following by his dog, but later on, he forbids his dog from following him; he locks the dog at home, in an attempt to portray his disguise in following the Nazi rule. In addition, he beats Hanna, his wife because she constantly makes greedy demands, which reminds him of his earlier self-interest. The dilemmas continue affecting Tono as he tries to figure out the way out, and this affects his conscience. Earlier on Tono had gained some insight and opted to be human, but remember his acceptance of the Aryan role, was in disguise, which is now threatened. The pressure mounts and he watch as the Nazi rule persecutes the Jews, who had managed to become his surrogate family. He becomes threatened entirely, and his disguise is not helping because even the friend who advised him to accept the offer of Aryan, faces the wrath of the Nazi law. Tono cannot help him.
Throughout the movie, the elderly Jewish widow (Mrs. Lautmann) is unaware of the war, and the subsequent harsh punishments exerted by the Nazi rule. The trains come another time to the small town to carry the Jews to either kill them, or take them to camps to face the harsh labor punishments. In the course of taking the Jews,…