Against the Storm (Herbert Kline in a Darkened Europe) Blu-ray Review: Capturing Pivotal Moments from History

As I may have mentioned in previous reviews, I really love documentaries. They dare to tell the truth about the world we live in, grim warts and all. They can capture pivotal moments from history, moments that we sometimes wish to forget.

Buy Against the Storm (Herbert Kline in a Darkened Europe) Blu-ray

Through renowned documentarian Herbert Kline’s work, especially with Crises: A Film of “The Nazi Way” (1939) and Lights Out of Europe (1940), we witness (as much we can stand anyway) the beginnings of a bleak wartime during Hitler’s reign over Europe. In Crises (narrated by Leif Erickson), we see preparations of Czechoslovakian citizens getting ready to be taken over by events that definitely are out of their control. You can call this the sort-of calm before the storm.

And then there’s Lights, which is the storm itself. Narrated by Fredric March, this film showcases the feared invasion of Poland by Hitler. This is obviously much darker than Crises because you see the emotional and physical toll that Nazism has put on innocent citizens who just want peace.

Both docs have moments of innocence and bliss, where people are allowed to laugh and try to live their lives. But make no mistake, that tranquility obviously doesn’t last due to the reality of the Nazi reign of doom.

Yes, you can say that the harsh imagery in both films feel exploitative, but it is a part of history, whether we like it or not. Again, that’s what documentaries do; they expose the truth, and nothing but the truth. And Kline’s contributions do just that.

Special features include commentary on Crises by cultural historian Thomas Doherty; commentary on Lights by film historian Maria Elena de las Carreras; Peace! The Four Power Conference, a 1938 newsreel; The White Eagle, an Oscar-nominated 1942 documentary short narrated by actor Leslie Howard; and image gallery. There’s also a booklet with information on the films by Doherty, and conservation notes by film curator Dave Kehr.


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