Directed by Jan Hrebejk starring Boleslav Polivka, Anna Siskova, Jaroslav Dusek and Csongor Kassai.

It's one of cinema's great clichés that the unlikeliest often become the greatest heroes. But Czech director Jan Hrebejk manages to breathe new life into an old plot line as he examines the Nazi occupation of his homeland. For Josef (Polivka) the war seems more an inconvenience than a source of terror. Sprawled flat out on his couch, he moans, grumbles and teases long suffering wife Marie (Siskova), who prays for a baby while her husband sleeps off the occupation.

Refusing to work for the Nazis, Josef is drawn back into his past when David (Kassai), the Jewish son of his former employer hides out in his home. But if trying to keep David alive in a hole behind the wardrobe is one challenge, than making sure Nazi sympathiser and Marie obsessive Horst (Dusek) doesn't suspect anything is an even greater one.

Hrebejk's film was nominated for an Oscar last year but it probably came too soon after 'Life is Beautiful' for the Academy to sit up and take notice of another wry film about life during wartime. A pity, because 'Divided We Fall' has great performances and manages to be funny and touching without ever resorting to schmaltz. What makes the film so appealing is Hrebejk's talent for colouring his characters with shades of grey. Josef constantly doubts what he's doing (more so when he takes up a job with the Germans so that no-one suspects he's hiding someone). Horst isn't really the monster you think at first, and Marie isn't quite so religious that she won't be unfaithful to her husband with David if it means that all three of them survive. As for David, he's quite an underdeveloped character but Hrebejk is more intent on showing how he affects the lives of a childless couple than depicting any jaded scenes of a fugitive thanking people who care for him.

With soldiers and whispers on every corner, the characters are forced to admit the lunacy of the situation in which they find themselves – providing moments of richly black comedy as they try to avoid arousing suspicion. It reaches its zenith when the Germans are defeated and Josef has to try and convince the liberators that he has never been a Nazi sympathiser. Farce and terror combine, as Hrejek constructs a finale that will have you laughing one minute and then shielding your eyes the next. But don't worry, you'll come out smiling.

Harry Guerin