Operatically extended for its subject matter, “Meeting the Enemy” is a visually arresting yet cumulatively wearying morality play in which a German soldier and his partisan prisoner wander a snowy landscape near World War II’s end. Crafted with visceral immediacy, this determinedly non-commercial pic, a rare feature from the moribund yet stirring Slovak film industry, will serve to fill out fest and tube slates.
Story is based on the autobiographical novel by partisan fighter Leopold Arje Friedmann, who wrote under the pen name “Leopold Lahola” and was active in 1960’s Prague Spring lensing revival prior to his sudden 1968 death. Pic’s first half finds the soldier (Alexander Barta) being grilled by an incredulous Russian commissar (Boris Farkas), who demands over and over again to know how the grunt escaped. Second half illustrates the standoff, as German trooper Kampen (co-scripter Marko Igonda) debates the conflict with his prisoner in rugged, snowbound terrain. Extended finale underscores the allegorical nature of the proceedings. “To kill is the biggest offense,” one says, underscoring the philosophical debate. Tech package is impressively eccentric, though arduous location work is undermined by claustrophobic close-ups and repetitive antiwar themes.