MOSCOW — Daniel Craig starrer “Defiance,” a true story of Jewish resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied wartime Poland, has tanked at the Warsaw box office after months of criticism over what many Poles see as Hollywood rewriting history.
Directed by Edward Zwick, Craig stars as Jewish partisan leader Tuvia Bielski, one of four Jewish brothers who escaped the Nazis to establish a secret village refuge deep in the Polish forests that saved the lives of hundreds of followers.Based on Nechama Tec’s 1993 book “Defiance: The Bielski Partisans,” the pic — called “Opor” (Resistance) in Poland — opened Jan. 29.
It came in ninth at the box office in its first week, selling an average of 366 tickets per copy in a 35-print release, before dropping off the chart a week later.
“Defiance” had been criticized in the local press in the months before its release for simplifying a complex story. The film makes heroes of the brothers but does not address allegations that their band mistreated local Poles and the anti-Nazi resistance Polish home army.
In a statement to the Times of London in December, director Zwick countered the building protests, saying, “The Bielskis weren’t saints. … They faced any number of difficult moral dilemmas that the movie seeks to dramatize: Does one have to become a monster to fight monsters?”
However, the publicity did not draw auds to the pic in Poland.
“It seems the controversy was more interesting for the press than for the general audience,” Zdzislaw Pietrasik, chief film critic for Polityka, the country’s largest circulation weekly, told Daily Variety.
“When the film came out, it became a non-event,” Pietrasik added. “But perhaps the appalling number of tickets sold also shows that the story is simply not that interesting, at least in its current version.”
Distributed by Paramount Vantage, the pic has made $41.3 million worldwide. It is due to open in the Netherlands this month and in Germany, Australia, Norway and the Czech Republic in April.
(Michal Chacinksi in Warsaw contributed to this report).