The Mortal Storm is the story of an underdog to whom the viewer can relate. The underdog in question is a professor who will not relinquish his freedom – at least not without a fight. He and his family continually fight for the life they enjoyed before the Nazi regime, one that had as its underpinnings kindness, friendship, and goodness. The story depicts everyday events in the life of the professor and his family: trying to visit friends and being harassed; visiting a local tavern and being bullied into political expression; going to work and finding that nearly all his students now despise him because of his ethnicity and his politics. The choice to not depict bombs bursting, uniformed soldiers fighting, but rather to clarify the insidious nature of totalitarianism is powerful: how it infests its philosophy gradually and how it impacts regular people who are afraid to stand up against it. This chilling message impacts the viewer who cannot help but wonder, “Could this happen today?” It shows an aspect of human nature that is disquieting. What would we fight for today? When wrong is done, do we have the courage to stand up and point it out?
The second decision that helps lift The Mortal Storm into the realm of “Great Films” are the themes that the film tackles. The theme that underlies them all seems to be the courage it takes to have integrity. For instance, when the professor’s daughter visits a pub with some friends, she and her friend display courage when they help an old Jewish man. They both do the right thing despite being surrounded by Nazis who despise the kindness the two show this man -- the object of the Nazi’s hatred. Throughout the film, the professor refuses to be pressured into showing patriotism the Nazi way. Instead he shines a light into the injustice and evil of what is happening in his country even though others find it easier to just go along with the current. When we see the professor imprisoned and shackled because of his stubborness, he doesn’t complain. He seems resigned to accept the punishment because he knows that he has his integrity.
When The Mortal Storm came out, World War II had begun, but the US hadn’t entered. It seems to me that the reason this story is not better known today and was not more popular in its time is because America was in denial that the forces behind World War II were evil and uncompromising. This film shows the true face of those forces due to the critical choices the creators made regarding character and theme.
In conclusion, The Mortal Storm is a Great Film and should be required viewing for all high school students.