The film is presented as a true story set during World War II. With the Nazi takeover of Europe underway, the deputy Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich arrives in Prague and his underlings begin enforcing his authority in the towns and villages across the occupied country. In Lidice, the film’s main protagonist, František Šíma, is sent to prison following a family dispute that boils over resulting in the accidental death of one of his sons. During Šíma’s incarceration one of the other villagers, Václav Fiala, strings along his mistress with lies about his bravery as a resistance fighter against the Germans. Heydrich is assassinated and during the Gestapo investigation that follows, a letter Fiala has written describing his supposed heroism comes to their attention. It leads to the total destruction of Lidice and the mass execution and deportations of its citizens. Throughout the atrocity, Šima remains in jail, where news of what happened is kept from him. On his release, he returns to Lidice where he finds the village has been obliterated and finally learns of the tragic events.
Lidice deals with the build up, inhuman proceedings and aftermath of the only officially recognised genocide of the Second World War. The complete liquidation and destruction of the Czech town of Lidice and its inhabitants which took place when some of its residents were linked to the assassination of Heydrich, the Nazi put in control of controlling Czechoslovakia. In the run up to the terrible acts of the Nazis, Frantisek (Roden) is sent to prison for killing his brother and Karel (Novak) and Vlcek (Luknar) fight for the affections of Anicka (Kubarova).
The arresting and evocative cinematography and musical score combine to create a haunting atmosphere and ratchet up the tension as the relationship between the Czechs and Nazis goes from relatively calm and peaceful to murderous bedlam. The characterisation is excellent as the main players are well-introduced and kept evolving as the years pass by throughout the film – a very important asset as, in a way, this is a film about ordinary people and their intermingling lives. Sometimes Lidice tends towards melodrama but this is successfully reigned in and the resultant drama leaves you feeling genuinely moved.
It’s often easy with films dealing with difficult subjects to over-praise them – average Holocaust film The Pianist, for example – so it must be said that Lidice is not a classic. The pacing is a little uneven as too much time is spent setting the scene and therefore the assassination and the more interesting themes after the horrific event feel a little underdeveloped and tacked on.