Beyond Mercy is set during 1942, in the wilderness of Poland. Nazi soldiers are scouring the woods, killing any and all Jews that they come across. After seeing his family murdered, Simon (Nerman Mahmutovic) stumbles across an injured Nazi soldier (Christof Franz), who demands his assistance. Simon reluctantly agrees, accompanying the solider to an abandoned cabin. Simon and the soldier’s burgeoning friendship or understanding of each other is interrupted, however, when two Nazi soldiers (Patrik Gehrig and Stefan Weiss) find them in the cabin, and Simon comes under intense scrutiny.
When seemingly lower budget films take a shot at period pieces, it can sometimes be a horrendous disaster. The ones that do it right manage to balance their ambition and creativity with their means, and Beyond Mercy is in this category. Keeping the locations minimal or natural, such as with the cabin and the surrounding woods, the film doesn’t overwhelm itself. Focusing in on a personal story, that is more about character dynamics than shootouts or action set pieces, the film transports the audience without needing to be flashy about it. So kudos for what Nevzat Kaya pulls off just by knowing what there is to work with, and then getting everything out of it that is possible.
My main criticism of this film is the length and the pacing. For instance, a particularly suspenseful sequence near the film’s end undermines its own intentions by going on for far too long. If the Nazi characters are as ruthless as we’ve been shown in the lead-up to the climax, then they wouldn’t be so slow to mete out their final resolution, even if they seem to find joy in prolonging the pain. Other scenes wander a bit in their pacing, becoming almost repetitive as the characters’ natures are introduced, then shown again and again. We get it, this Nazi is more mean than that Nazi, etc.
All that said though, again, it is impressive when a film pulls off a period story by keeping things simple, and to that end Beyond Mercy is worth a look. Maybe you’ll get more out of it than I did; there are philosophical questions to ponder about doing what is right in the face of what is safe, and the film adds a nice end-note in its final minutes to make you think about it all over again.
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