September 3, 2020  (Web Review)

The Mover

Kino Lorber, 91 min., in Latvian w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99, May 19

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

The Mover is a tense feature film telling the true story of Zanis Lipke (Arturs Skrastins), a Latvian worker who rescued Jewish people from persecution and death during the German occupation of Latvia in World War II. Zanis Lipke was honored as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel for his heroism under intense German control, and this film credibly tells his story. In 1941 the Germans take over the city of Riga from the Soviets. Lipke and his wife Johanna (Ilze Blauberga) live just out of town in a house surrounded by outbuildings, used furniture, crates, miscellaneous goods, and chickens. They live near the water and Lipke has both a truck and a boat that he uses to transport goods. He tells the Germans he is a mechanic at the Luftwaffe Warehouse. Despite his wife’s protests, Zanis counsels his oldest teenage children to look out for their own safety. The daughter escapes with the Russians before she can be arrested as a communist and the son leaves to join the German Army for protection. No information is again given regarding the outcomes for these two young adults. The youngest child Ziggis is about 10 and remains at home in the household helping his parents.

Though a member of the working class, Lipke is intelligent, canny, and tough; appalled at the Germans’ behavior, he uses his warehouse and truck to find ways in Riga to hide Jewish individuals. Several times he is confronted by soldiers and has to think his way out of trouble. When the Germans force the Jews to move to the Riga Ghetto, Lipke and his Jewish friend Arke find ways to rescue people there. As individuals leave the Ghetto to work, the soldiers count them; upon returning Lipke exchanges jackets with an escapee and walks into the entrance in their stead wearing the coat embroidered with a large Jewish star. When this maneuver becomes too dangerous, Lipke finds other means to help people. Using a ladder, Lipke pulls his truck up to the back of Ghetto houses and lowers people into his truck where he hides them in large crates. Other times he quickly grabs someone off a work crew. Lipke and other men build a bunker in one of his outbuildings to hide people. After Lipke witnesses the Germans march the able-bodied men and women out of the ghetto and into the forest to death, Lipke is further committed to helping as many Jewish people as he can. His wife is supportive and his young son does not give Lipke away when the German soldiers pay them a visit. Davis Simanis deftly directs this film to showcase the courageous efforts of Zanis Lipke to help over fifty Jewish people survive and escape German-occupied Latvia. Highly recommended. (T. Root)