Peter Weir’s 2010 film “The Way Back” is a magnificent true story that just so happens not to be true. Based on “The Long Walk” by Gulag survivor Slawomir Rawicz, the film concerns a group of Soviet prisoners in 1939 who make a run for freedom. Problem is, they start in the middle of Siberia, trekking south towards hopeful freedom. By the time the surviving escapees reach safety, they’ve walked over 4,000 miles.
Rawicz’s book was apparently inspiring enough to sell over half a million copies upon publication in 1956, though recent records have indicated that the author did not escape from the Gulag, but was released in 1942. So the film was at least inspired by, if not directly based, on the tale of a liar, one who might have found that merely surviving the Gulag wasn’t itself an interesting enough story. We’re commonly moved by entirely fictional stories, but does a lie accepted as truth deserve the same respect?