Books and movies about resistance movements
June 19, 2007 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Bookfilter / Moviefilter - Need book and movie recommendations about resistance fighters in wars. Particularly interested in the European theatre of World War II but open to other times, settings, and points of view whether fictional or non-fictional.

I am about to finish reading Mary Doria Russell's novel 'A Thread of Grace' and my interest in resistance campaigns in wars has been heightened.

'A Thread of Grace' is historical fiction based on the true story of the vast underground effort of the Italian citizens who saved the lives of 43,000 Jews during the final years of WWII. It's a fantastic book that describes the intrigue and danger awaiting every character.

For example, one character changes his identity depending on the situation. At times he takes on the identity of a disabled priest. At other times he becomes a dashing German merchant who befriends the leader of the Nazi occupiers. Sometimes his identity is compromised so he has to destroy his fake documentation and start over.

Another character is a nun who leaves coded notes under a vase in the church. There is a massive orchestrated effort to keep thousands of people safe and much of it takes place in view of the enemy. The term they use is "hiding in plain sight." It's all very thrilling and interesting and I want to read more books like this.

I've read 'The Diary of Anne Frank' and I've seen 'Charlotte Grey' but that about covers my exposure to wartime resistance efforts. Please recommend novels, biographies, non-fiction books, and/or movies about resistance fighters in any war in history.
posted by Soda-Da to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Currently in release is Paul Verhoeven's Black Book: "In the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during World War II, a Jewish singer infiltrates the regional Gestapo headquarters for the Dutch resistance."

Much older: Army of Shadows. "This non-spectacular movie (do not expect any Rambo or Robin Hood) shows us rigorously and austerely the everyday of the French Resistants : their solitude, their fears, their relationships, the arrests, the forwarding of orders and their carrying out... "
posted by Midnight Creeper at 9:31 AM on June 19, 2007

Leaves of Hypnos is an extraordinary series of poems by Rene Char, who fought in the French resistance, about that experience. Although I read a lot I don't much care for most poetry, but Leaves of Hypnos remains one of the best books I've ever read, and one I constantly think about since reading it 15 years ago.
posted by OmieWise at 9:31 AM on June 19, 2007

Rome, Open City is an absolute classic.

In a non-fictional vein, The Sorrow and the Pity contains fascinating interviews with both resistance fighters and collaborators.

Would you count the insurgents in The Battle of Algiers as resistance fighters? Another great film, and one that was shown at the Pentagon in 2005 to highlight parallels with the situation in Iraq.
posted by Bromius at 9:39 AM on June 19, 2007

Charlotte Gray
posted by fire&wings at 9:40 AM on June 19, 2007

It's a bit pulpy (although in a feminist way), but Gone to Solders by Marge Piercy is a novel containing several intertwined WWII stories, including some Resistance characters.
posted by matildaben at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2007

Verhoeven's 'Soldier of Orange' also has a significant fraction set amongst the Dutch resistance in WW2. Subtitled.

Once you're on that IMDB page then clicking on 'resistance' on the keywords section will let you find some other related films, though you'll have to pick out the WW2 ones for yourself.
posted by biffa at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2007

I recently read "The Moon is Down" by John Steinbeck, which is a fictional account of resistance against an army which is occupying a small town (generally given to be a Nazi-occupied Norwegian town). The novel starts with the initial invasion and slowly follow the townspeople as they steadily wear down the invading force.

The intro to the version I read had a great history of the novel - it was written as propaganda during WWII, and was a novel passed around underground in large numbers in France, Norway, and other occupied European countries during WWII.

Because it's fictional, you won't learn specific historical details, but it does an interesting job of breaking down the psychology of occupation on a small scale and it gave me a lot of food for thought. It's not very long (slightly over 100 pages), and reads almost like a fable. A very interesting little book, and one with a lot of historical and modern day resonance.
posted by warble at 9:44 AM on June 19, 2007

Red Dawn
posted by FuManchu at 9:47 AM on June 19, 2007

The Avengers
posted by docpops at 10:05 AM on June 19, 2007

Land and Freedom, and, of course, Pan's Labyrinth.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:10 AM on June 19, 2007

What about Orwell's Homage to Catalonia?

It's about the Spanish Civil War rather than WW2 but it's an interesting, well-written account of civil and military resistance to fascism.
posted by tiny crocodile at 10:13 AM on June 19, 2007

It’s not his best book, but Primo Levi’s novel If Not Now, When? is still a very interesting and moving account of Jewish resistance-fighters in Russia and Poland ca. 1943-44.
posted by misteraitch at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

John Frankenheimer's The Train is good. "This tense, 1964 action drama from John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) stars Burt Lancaster as a member of the French Resistance trying to prevent Nazi looters from taking valuable art treasures out of the country."
posted by otio at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2007

Homage to Catalonia is a fabulous book, but it isn't about the resistance, it's about one proxy army fighting another.
posted by OmieWise at 10:27 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are you also interested in the small resistances undertaken by ordinary people? Or only the large, organised movements? If the first, Heinrich Böll's 1971 novel Group Portrait with Lady (he won the Nobel for Literature the following year) is an excellent account of a woman's life in Cologne through the war. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough - it had me gasping for air.

Also - Thomas Kenneally's Schindler's Ark is very, very good (although it may only be sold now under the film title, I don't know).
posted by goo at 10:32 AM on June 19, 2007

Seconding If Not Now, When.
Soldiers Of The Night is an account of the resistance in France.
posted by Abiezer at 10:36 AM on June 19, 2007

Alan Furst has written a series of excellent thrillers set during WWII, and in Eastern Europe or Paris. Try The World at Night or Red Gold which feature Jean Casson a film producer in peace time who becomes a reluctant resistance fighter. Furst captures the atmosphere of wartime quite brilliantly
posted by gwynp at 10:37 AM on June 19, 2007

Oops that should be one n in Keneally.
posted by goo at 10:39 AM on June 19, 2007

I highly recommend Lisa and Jesper by Carol Matas.

They are short novels about young people involved with the Danish resistance during World War 2.

The books are certainly written with young people in mind but I believe they could be enjoyable to all. I read them in Junior High and they left a great impression on me.
posted by utsutsu at 10:40 AM on June 19, 2007

Star Wars
Seriously, there is a ton of science fiction that's on this theme, and that is based on WWII resistances, and popular depictions of them in the late 40s and 50s.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:58 AM on June 19, 2007

The Guns of Navaronne, a classic film about British underground in Greece.
posted by spacefire at 11:07 AM on June 19, 2007

for an amazing first hand account of the danish resistance movement read "Letter to My Descendants" by Niels Aage Skov. Niels was my professor at The Evergreen State College and is an amazing character, even more so after reading about him blowing up weapons stores and tracking down Nazi's in the time immediately following WWII. Also documents his escape from Nazi POW camp. Great read.
posted by NickPeters at 11:26 AM on June 19, 2007

Alan Furst.

All of his novels are set around the outbreak of WWII (roughly 1938 to 1942), and almost all of them involve protagonists from Central and Eastern European countries, often living in exile in Paris, who wind up involved in espionage, sabotage and other resistance activities. Furst adores Paris and hates war, and his novels all have a mix of elegaic despair and brief moments of joie de vivre that have earned them frequent comparisons to Casablanca. (He sometimes lingers long and lovingly, for example, on the meals served up at Parisian bistros.)

His milieu and page-turner approach are frequently compared to Graham Greene and John le Carre, and at his best - The World at Night, Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory - I think he's their peer as a writer as well. Highly recommended.
posted by gompa at 11:52 AM on June 19, 2007

Seconding gwynp, I now notice.
posted by gompa at 11:53 AM on June 19, 2007

If you get tired of all this serious stuff and feel the need for a break please check out Top Secret. Directed by Jim Abrams and the Zucker brothers of The Kentucky Fried Movie and The Naked Gun fame it is ridiculous.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:18 PM on June 19, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth
Robin Hood

(about resistance efforts, but not WWII.)

There are about a million books on resistance efforts during WWII for young readers.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is one excellent one.
posted by santojulieta at 12:32 PM on June 19, 2007

Ill Met By Moonlight (book and later film), about the British officers who led the resistance in Crete during the Second World War (including the legendary Paddy Leigh Fermor).
posted by greycap at 12:50 PM on June 19, 2007

Best war book I've ever read is For Whom the Bell Tolls. Although it's about the Spanish Civil War and not WWII, I have a feeling that it may just be what you're looking for.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:27 PM on June 19, 2007

Come and See. More partisan than resistance but an outstanding film none the less.
posted by Dr.Pill at 1:39 PM on June 19, 2007

The Hiding Place is about Corrie ten Boom and her family helping Jewish people escape from the Nazis with the help of the Dutch underground.

I haven't read them, but Other Italy: The Italian Resistance in World War II and The History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945 sound interesting.

Axis History Forum :: Recommended reading on the Resistance Movements

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Jewish Resistance - A Working Bibliography
posted by kirkaracha at 1:55 PM on June 19, 2007

the samuel beckett biography by Deirdre Bair has some description of his involvement in the French resistance.
posted by canoehead at 3:46 PM on June 19, 2007

And There was Light by Jacques Lusseyran--autobiography of a French resistance fighter

The Bitter Years by Richard Petrow--Scandinavian side of WWII
posted by elisynn at 11:00 PM on June 19, 2007

Resistance by Anita Shreve.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (children's book).
posted by Violet Hour at 11:55 PM on June 19, 2007

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