Director Amit Gupta takes us on a journey to an alternate Britain where the Nazis won the Second World War in his debut film Resistance, an unsettling portrait of Wales under German occupation as well as being a haunting evocation of love and patriotism. Based on an award-winning novel by poet-turned-playwright-turned-novelist Owen Sheers, the story was inspired by the author’s discovery that in World War 2 there were meticulously laid out plans for a resistance movement in the event of a possible German victory.
The film imagines the upheaval in an isolated Welsh valley when overnight all the men disappear and shortly afterwards are replaced by a small patrol of German soldiers on a mysterious mission. As the two disparate groups (the abandoned wives and the German Soldiers) attempt to co-exist over a harsh winter, loyalty, frustrated passion and the futility of war come under close scrutiny.
The film’s concept isn’t new, Sci-Fi legend Phillip K Dick’s The Man In The High Castle also imagines an alternate history where World War 2 went the other way but co-screenwriters Sheers and Gupta side-stepped PKD’s bleak existentialism and instead deliver a movie. The film is something of a mash up between Never Let Me Go and the lyricism of The Thin Red Line.
If I had one gripe it was that in Sheers novel the valleys themselves are a mystical force of nature, stirring up and unlocking lost memories and emotions in the German soldiers, piercing through ideology into the human hearts beneath the combat uniform. Gupta doesn’t fully pull off communicating visually the overpowering beauty of the valley. If you compare it to, say, Andrea Arnold’s recent adaptation of Wuthering Heights where through Robbie Ryan’s camerawork you truly are swept under the elemental, desolate and untamed power of the Yorkshire moors. Whereas the landscape in Resistance is very much a backdrop and not a character as it is in the novel.
Gupta succeeds in getting across the meditative quality of the novel as well as characters confined and grappling with questions of conflicting allegiances to their land, nation and own humanity itself.