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To Be or Not To Be Film Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 23 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of To Be or Not To Be.
This section contains 532 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)

Motifs

Plays

As we watch To Be or Not To Be, we watch the story through the plays that the actors and actresses perform in. At the beginning of the film, we see Joseph and Maria starring in a performance of Hamlet. We learn of Stanislav's affections backstage and watch as he walks out during Joseph's soliloquy. As we watch, Joseph becomes increasingly angry as well as jealous concerning his wife's flirtation with Stanislav.

The next play we observe shows the characters making fun of Hitler. They are poking fun at his ways, his looks, and his general philosophy of life. As we watch, the performer playing Hitler runs out into the street which causes concern among the public since he so closely resembles Hitler.

Finally, each character performs in a real life play in order to save their lives and their beloved country, Poland. Maria plays the role of the beautiful temptress who works to seduce Siletsky, discover his secrets, and murder him. Joseph plays both the role of Colonel Ehrhardt and later the role of Siletsky. The other actors play a number of roles including Hitler when they all trick the soldiers and escape the country.

Concealed Identity

Concealed identities form a background for this film. As the film begins, we can never be sure of anyone's true identity or motivations. Although Maria seems like a good wife, she also plays the part of flirtatious actress. Stanislav also plays the role of smitten pilot, but he actually plays the role in truth.

The most important concealed identity is Professor Siletsky. He has fooled the entire British military by pretending to be a caring professor originally from Poland. He even convinces them that he is going on a top secret mission for them when in reality, he is working for the Nazis and trying to squash the freedom movement in Poland.

Finally, we see that all the different actors and Stanislav take on different identities to try to protect each other and Poland. Although many people believe them, they are actually only doing what their career has prepared them for-acting in the story of their real lives.

World War II

World War II is the backdrop for this story. This can be considered the worst war that the modern world has seen. Millions of men, women, and even children died during this war, not only including the massacred Jews but also those fighting to save the Jews and the countries overtaken by the Axis countries.

When the film was created, the war had been going on for a few years, but America was just getting involved after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Before this time, America had been desperately trying to stay out of the war since so many lives had recently been lost during World War I.

The director and actors poke fun at Hitler and create a lighthearted feeling in the viewers who were terribly concerned about those they loved who were fighting overseas. Additionally, viewers felt less alone because they realized that people all over the world were suffering even more severely than they. The story of the bravery of these actors and Stanislav is told through the all too real setting of World War II.

This section contains 532 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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