Netflix Movie Will Redefines World War Cinema. Belgian movie Will, which is now playing on Netflix, is a must see for movie goers that love WWII films. Better yet, if you enjoy your films darker than not? And morally morass filled? This is the film for you. It’s seriously the darkest World War 2 movie I think I’ve ever seen. And this is taking into consideration Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful… the lot. This thing is wicked dark. And it’s all the better for it.
I think we’ve become complacent with just how horrific the Nazi occupation of Europe really was. At all levels. We’ve just presumed that we’ve seen it all. But we have not. Will proves that. Basically, life under Nazi occupation was nigh on impossible. How could you have an ounce of moral virtue and survive a season of history like that? And Tim Mielants’ screenplay is wound so tightly from the first 3 minutes, I thought it would snap in two halfway through the proceedings.
Belgian police officer, Wilfriend Wils finds himself in a super bad way almost immediately from the jump. His job? A fresh-faced recruit who is there to watch and to mediate between the Belgian people and the Germans. What the hell does that mean? It’s an immediately impossible bind. What are they to actually do? Well, their captain makes it clear… “You just stand there, and you watch.” Yeah. If you understand what the Germans are doing, it’s a horrible directive. Pitch black evil. This is the plot fodder of a fantastic Philosophy 101 course… you are in a life boat, and there are too many people, you will all sink and die. Who do you choose to stay in the boat? That sort of thing.
On their first stint on the streets – Lode and Wil find themselves getting conscripted to help a single German soldier who is intent on rounding up some Jews in the neighborhood. Eventually, Wil can’t stand it any longer and begins to fight back with the German, and accidentally kills him. Dropping him in a hole, it’s unclear who has seen the murder – and whether they will be found out.
Afterwards, Lode and Will head back to their jobs, worried they are about to be put up against a wall (and shot.) Which, is a very real possibility. Instead, a handful of random men in the community are murdered in revenge for the German’s death. And suddenly, Wil finds himself completely in the debt of an anti-Semite who is 2 parts greedy to his 3 parts antisemitism. Simultaneously, Lode’s family are all very distrustful of his coworker… they are certain he will turn them all in. Lode’s sister? Yvette (Annelore Crollet) wants to understand what the real score is. What is going on here. Is Wil a Nazi sympathizer? Wil sidesteps the family’s questions, as he attempts to sidestep the moral quagmire the deeper he goes.
Schnabel, still intent on finding the individual that caused the death of the Nazi storm trooper, continues to try to discover Wil’s identity. Wil, intent on staying alive at all costs, flips from side to side as it suits him from moment to moment. And this is the larger darkness of the film that really resonated with me. Normally, we watch as absolute white fights back against the darkness of black. We rarely see this story from the perspective of the various stages of grey. Why? Because we want to believe that we are WHITE. WE ARE THE GOOD IN THE WORLD. WE ARE JUSTICE INCARNATE. Which is just bullshit. I mean, even Martin Luther King Jr. had his moral flaws and screw-ups. (Which we will not be detailing here, thank you.) In his fight against the evils of prejudice, he screwed up. So yeah, what would I have looked like in the fight against Nazism? I HOPE I would have stood up. But seeing as though most just stood by and watched (as Wil and Lode were told to do), maybe I too would have been too afraid to fight back against the enormous Hitler machine. I don’t know.
The Ending of the Netflix Movie Will Explained
The ending of the movie Will is JARRINGLY horrible. Wil, in his fight for survival is really given two options. He can take a stand against the Nazis… and be put against a wall and shot. Or, he can fall in line and do the job he was told to do. Which, specifically, was to round up Jews. What does he choose to do? He obeys, and he rounds up mothers, babies, husbands, and tosses them into the back of a truck. It is heartbreaking.
Worse? Yvette witnesses this tragic betrayal, and flees the scene. Wil, attempting to salvage the mess he’s made of this immoral choice, follows after. She ducks and weaves passing trains. Still Wil follows on, intent to make her see his rationale. Survival is better than death! Survival is better than nothing! And what does Yvette do? She makes the contra-argument by stepping in front of an oncoming train… committing suicide. It’s the piéce de résistance. It’s the argument that wins all other arguments that Wil could ever attempt to make to show her his logic.
The logic of this particular movie is that if you choose survival, you are a collaborator. And obviously that cannot be ENTIRELY true. But it is an interesting argument all the same… right? Viktor Frankl, the amazing holocaust survivor and author of many brilliant books, talked about surviving the camps and being blown away by how Germans, EVERYONE, just didn’t want to know their stories. They couldn’t hear it. Because it made them complicitly guilty. And it did. So, the movie isn’t wrong. It just might a bit too aggressive in its pronouncement of guilt for these sins of omission. Another movie that does this same thing?? The Zone of Interest, and I’m looking forward to talking about it as well. It is really important to continue to find new ways to grapple with the massive scale of these atrocities.