The true story of Greek boxer and Holocaust survivor Salamo Arouch mercifully avoids the Rocky-goes-to-Auschwitz game, but it does make the tactical error of turning life in a Nazi death camp into little more than a tear-jerking melodrama. The against-the-odds implications of the title (a clever inversion of Leni Riefenstahl's 'Triumph of the Will') are also misleading, since outside of a few token bouts for the entertainment of German officers the ironies of the fight-to-survive boxing scenario are all but ignored.
The film's principle distinction is that was shot on location at Auschwitz-Birkenau, unhappily so, because the disturbing authenticity of the setting only emphasizes the superficiality of the story. No amount of watered down histrionics could ever communicate the true horror of the Holocaust, and in real life there was no stirring, Dolby-stereo music score to accompany the prisoners into the gas chambers, and no tactful cutting away to the next scene at the last moment. Sincere intentions only make it a bogus David vs. Goliath fable, set (and photographed) in Hell.
Note: see 'The Boxer and Death' (1963, Czechoslovakia) for a more honest, ambiguous, and compelling treatment of essentially the same story.
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