Persian Lessons Review – Gripping, Powerful, Compelling

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Persian Lessons, from Cohen Media Group, presents the true story of survival against impossible odds as a Jew being held in a Nazi prison camp creates a ruse that not only saves his life but endears his captor.

The film opens in Occupied France, 1942, Gilles played by Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, is arrested by SS soldiers alongside other Jews and sent to a camp in Germany. Riding in the back of the truck, another prisoner asks him if he has any food, with only a sandwich, the man trades the food for a book, a first edition Persian book in Farsi.

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Gilles, the son of a rabbi, asks what the words mean, and the man translates a few. Once they are ordered off the truck, the group, men, women, and chidlren are systematically executed. Gilles falls to the ground before his group is shot and he narrowly avoids sudden execution by swearing to the guards that he is not Jewish, but Persian.

This lie temporarily saves him, as one of the soldiers' superior officers is "looking for a Persian," and has promised additional rations to the soldier who delivers. Gilles is then assigned a literal life-or-death mission: to teach Farsi to Head of Camp Koch, played by Lars Eidinger, who dreams of opening a restaurant in Iran once the war is over.

Through an ingenious trick, Gilles manages to survive by inventing words of "Farsi" every day and teaching them to Koch. In the beginning Koch only demanded Gilles teach him ten words per day. He was accelerating his learning as he expected the war to continue possibly two more years and when it was over he planned to escape to Tehran and open a restaurant.

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As time passed and it became impossible to find a prisoner who knew real Farsi, Koch increased Gilles duties. So now in addition to teaching him Farsi, working in the kitchen Gilles would also maintain the prisoner's entries logs. Soon, Gilles created an ingenious method of developing words.

So much so that Gilles was spending hours in the Gestapo's office. Koch would serve him food, bread, potatoes, meat. He even provided rations so he could return to the barracks to feed others who were desperate. The unusual relationship between the two men sparks jealousy in other prisoners and particularly the SS guards towards Gilles.

Having to create Farsi words, memorize the created words and their meanings all the while remembering them so not to reuse or mix the words began more than simply a life-or-death struggle, it became the very vein of Gilles survival. As the war is nearing an end, and the Nazi leadership is concerned over their fate, Koch increases Gilles duties. So now in addition to teaching him Farsi, working in the kitchen Gilles will now maintain the prisoner's entries logs.

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Meanwhile as the war is nearing an end, Koch's suspicions grow every day, and Gilles struggles with the unfairness of his privileges compared to his fellow prisoners, while fighting to maintain his secret and survive which leads to an unexpected ending.

Persian Lessons is a compelling and gripping film. An untold story of survival against all odds. Scene by scene the suspense builds, as the ruthlessness of the Nazi's are well documented we are expecting death, in fact we are believe the favor that has been shown will ultimately lead to his death.

The ensemble cast delivers powerful and emotional performances. The shocking accounts and delivery of the inhuman treatment and torture are authentic and convincing.

Persian Lessons, powerful, absorbing, and captivating, opens June 9, 2023, in select cities. A must see!

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Country: German, Russian, Belarus.

Language: German, French, Italian, Farsi with English Subtitles.

Run time: 127 minutes.

Directed: Vadim Perelman.

Producer: Rauf Atamalinekov, Timur Bekmambetov, Pavel Burya, Murad Osmann, Vadim Perelman, Ilya Stewart, Ilja Zofin.

Screenplay by Ilya Zofin.

Story by Wolfgang Kohlhaase.

Starring: Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Lars Eidinger, Jonas Nay, Leonie Benesch, Alexander Beyer, Luisa-Celine Gaffron.

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