Film Review: ‘No Place on Earth’ by Erica Laxson

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Cave explorer Chris Nicola traveled to some of the worlds longest caves in a search for his heritage, but instead unraveled the harrowing true story about a group of Jewish WWII survivors.

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No Place on Earth, directed by Janet Tobias, is a tremendously successful storytelling and reenactment of history’s longest unbroken inhabitation of a cave. The 38 men, women and children who descended into never ending darkness to save their lives would be moved by the visual tribute to their incredible tale. 

Upon discovering the lost treasures of an unknown people in the deepest reaches of the cave, Nicola set out on a journey to find the owners, and hear their story. Nicola found several people who live though the record breaking 511 days underground and the film is partially narrated by the those survivors. Facing near certain death at the hands of the Nazi’s and totally ostracization by their own neighbors, there was one clear choice for a group of families committed to keeping themselves alive. 

Saul Stermer, Sam Stermer, Sonia Dodyk, and Sima Dodyk vividly retell their story of human strength and their family’s dedication to life with the help of beautifully crafted re-enactments and footage of historical clips and photographs seamlessly blended together into a multimedia storytelling masterpiece. Editors Deidre Slevin and Claus Wehlisch non-linear timeline captures our attention and leads us through each gasp worthy moment while John Piscitello’s exquisite and incredibly moving score propels us up and down with each emotional revelation. 

The survivors, who rightly refer to themselves as fighters, ranged in age from two years old to an incredible 76 years old. They entered the caves in 1942, and though the men frequently scavenged for food outside the caves, the women and children remained underground for the entirety of their protective, self-imposed exile. Prepare for tear-jerking stories of love, woe, and unbelievable heartbreak balanced with Nicola’s unique look into our survivors’ future. 

Cinematographers Cesar Charlone, Edu Grau, Sean Kirby, and Peter Simonite captured the vast unknown spaces of the tremendously long caves with as much beautiful clarity as they did the tightest cavern tunnels both actors and crew had to suffocate their way though. There is never a moment when we question the intensity of the life altering decision these survivors made – and instead feel every single death defying moment, baited breath, and joyous celebration. 

Sam Stermer and Saul Stermer inside Verteba Cave in 'No Place on Earth,' a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Sam Stermer and Saul Stermer inside Verteba Cave in ‘No Place on Earth,’ a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

5 stars for a perfect combination of simulated and historical storytelling combined with stunning visuals, and a heartbreaking score. The movie will be adored by history lovers, WWII buffs, and anyone who loves their family.

Director: Janet Tobias.
Running Time: 83 minutes.
Cast: Chris Nicola, Saul Stermer, Dániel Hegedüs, Sima Dodyk, Sonia Dodyk, Fruzsina Pelikán, Balázs Barna Hídvégi, Sam Stermer, Péter Balázs Kiss, and Katalin Lábán.
Screenplay: Janet Tobias, Paul Laikin.

Producers: Steven Ruchefsky, Zita Kisgergely, Susan Barnett, Paul Laikin, Rafael Marmor, Nadav Schirman, and Janet Tobias.

No Place on Earth opens today April 26th at Landmark’s E Street Cinema – 555 11th St NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online, or call  (202) 783-9494.

LINK:
No Place on Earth website.