Cabaret ★★★★

Set during the rise of fascism in Germany, the context is unmissable and yet the primary focus is on a story of ordinary people going through ordinary struggles and human failings on their journey toward finding happiness and success. We've become somewhat accustomed to seeing Holocaust stories in the midst of the war's greatest atrocities, something that will never become less horrifying to witness, but there's a formidable sense of foreboding present that shines a light on the more subtle, creeping terror of the changing of the tide from manageable daily struggles to inhumane hatred and violence. The film trusts the audience's intelligence, using our knowledge of history to emphatically elicit emotive reactions without being abrasive. Seeing a swastika with an awareness of the atrocities the symbol would come to represent is terrifying, and the weight of that underlying intensity is overbearing on the film, allowing us into the mindset of how it must have been to reside in Germany at the time. The complications the characters experience are compelling, love triangles and sexual experimentation and passion, but as the backdrop of Nazism becomes increasingly oppressive their attempts at securing a positive future are clear to us to be futile. The final shot rings with a resounding inevitability: nothing they have done will matter in the world that is about to become an incomprehensible living hell.

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