The Fifth Seal

The Fifth Seal ★★★★

Would you prefer to be reborn as a slave or as a slave owner? Poor and noble or wealthy and corrupt?

The problem of moral choice under conditions of coercion and authoritarian rule

Fábri makes a film that has its foundation in a moral and philosophical questioning in a time when extreme situations were happening in an abrupt and unrestrained way. The dilemma posed by the director, within the plot, where men discuss a controversial issue, might have remained just like a conversation in a bar in a time of peace and tranquility, but, during World War II, any question like this took on much more serious , dramatic and somber tones.

Faced with planet earth being destroyed by the horrors of the worst war ever, the world split between the Axis forces and the Allied forces. There is no denying that the axis was and will always be seen as the villain of history, with Nazi Germany as the great villain and leader of the tragedy. Therefore, the question posed by the director goes through a delicate nuance: The slave owner referred to in the question can be understood as a metaphor for whoever held power at that time, who took whatever actions were necessary to achieve the goals, even that they were cruel and hideous. But he is a slave owner who saw these actions as legitimate and within the law, as the Nazis did in World War II. On the other side of the coin, the slave can be seen as the forces that were supposed to fight this evil but were subdued and trapped.

But the dilemma may gain even more strength if we consider how the citizens facing the war behaved. The questioning of rebirth can also be understood as how each of us would behave if we were born in that historical period, leaning towards the allies or leaning towards the axis. How would our own positioning be? Would our choices be morally reprehensible and ethically questionable or just seen as a continuation of what was seen as legal, legitimate and supported?

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