Review by Sean Boelman
Chichinette: The Accidental Spy, directed by Nicola Hens, is a new documentary film focusing on an unsung hero from WWII. Although it doesn’t quite take full advantage of its extraordinary subject and her stranger-than-fiction story, it is still a relatively entertaining and inspiring documentary.
The movie tells the story of Marthe Cohn, a now ninety-eight-year-old Jewish woman who served as a spy during WWII and has gone on to become a prolific speaker talking about her own story. Although there have been plenty of stories about spies during the war, and also plenty of stories about the Jewish people fighting back against oppression, very seldom are these stories told from a female perspective.
Pretty much everything about Cohn’s story is extremely inspiring, from fighting for what she believed in to teaching others about compassion. People of all ages can see her story and how she made a positive impact on the world in which she lived and be inspired to leave their own mark on the people around them.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Cohn is that, even at the age of ninety-eight, she continues to help people in her own way. As is the case with many films about WWII, the main moral of this story is to treat others with humanity. By looking back at the darkest hour and those people, like Cohn, who remained a source of light, society can learn how to deal with the other troubles they may face.
As one would expect, Cohn is an extremely compelling protagonist. Although she doesn’t show a lot of growth over the course of the movie, she had already completed her emotional arc before the camera ever turned on her. All of the interviews with Cohn are absolutely captivating thanks to her magnetic personality that comes across very well on screen.
The most significant shortcoming of the film is that it is a bit unevenly paced. Even though the movie is less than an hour and a half long, it does start to feel a bit repetitive at times. Some of these derivative sequences could have been cut out and the film as a whole could have been even more captivating.
On a technical level, the movie is quite strong. Hens tells Cohn’s story with a combination of archive images, interviews with Cohn, and footage from some of Cohn’s speeches about her experiences. While this combination of methods is pretty safe and typical, it is effective nonetheless because it conveys the story in a relatively concise and aesthetically-pleasing way.
Chichinette: The Accidental Spy may be made in a relatively by-the-book way, but the story is by no means average. Because the film’s subject is so fascinating, this documentary ends up being quite satisfying.
Chichinette: The Accidental Spy is now playing in theaters.
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