Archive for the ‘Holocaust’ Category

There are only positive reviews of Son Of Saul, winner of Best Foreign Language Movie at the Academy Award Ceremony of 2016. It’s one of those movies that all critics just adored. Probably because none of them want to come across as heartless or anti-Semitic if they didn’t.

But apart from them, no-one else recommended it. It kind of flopped at the box office as well. It wasn’t even a success in the arthouse theaters. Very few people saw it and those who did, didn’t spread the word.

So finally after more than a year the time was right to watch this heavily awarded Holocaust drama!

The best thing about this Hungarian movie is the direction and the editing.What makes this movie really great is the distance from which the camera films the main character. It’s like he’s pulling the viewer along in his story. It’s a very daunting and thrilling experience. You’re so close to this man that you feel like you’re really next to him. Excellent! It also feels like the whole movie was recorded in one single take. Which it wasn’t of course, but that’s the merit of the editor. Another unique cinematographic feat is the depiction of the horror in a blurry and distant way.

The story however isn’t all that engaging. The setting is quite dramatic of course. But the actual story isn’t.

Saul, the protagonist, is part of a Sonderkommando working at a concentration camp near the end of World War II. A jewish prisoner himself, he is forced to help bring incoming prisoners to the gas chambers, remove all the valuables from their clothes, pull out their bodies (called ‘pieces’) and carry them to the ovens, then disinfect the chamber and also bring the ashes of the burnt prisoners to the nearby river. That’s the setting. If you haven’t read/seen/heard anything about this aspect of the concentration camps and you are used to watching movies like La Vita E Bella or The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, then yes, this can be very unsettling.

The story however is about this same man who spends all movie long trying to save a dead boy from being burnt with the others and give him a typical Jewish burial. For that purpose he needs to find a rabbi. But he also needs to ‘steal’ the body, hide it and find a place to bury. All within 24 hours. He is also given the task to collect certain items for a riot that the Sondercommando he’s part of, is anticipating. Somehow, this just doesn’t make sense. Sure, he wants to do at least one thing right after all this time of forcefully collaborating with the atrocious acts of the nazis. But why add the riot story?

Watch it nevertheless.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3808342/

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In a discussion about the abundance of Holocaust themed movies, some (older American women) suggested to watch The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, one of the most touching stories they had ever seen. They had never heard of excellent movies like Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters) and they believed Schindler’s List was too grim.

Duh.

This one here is terrible cinema. It’s a movie for children (and older American women apparently), but who would want to show this to kids? Schindler’s List was compulsory viewing for teenagers back when it was released in the early nineties. And rightfully so. If someone ever comes up with the idea of making this crappy movie compulsory for kids, they’d shrug their shoulders by the end and have learned nothing. 

In case you do want to watch it (in order to make your own opinion) know that it’s about an 8 year old son of a nazi labor camp commander who is curious about the ‘farm’ he sees in a distance from his window room where everyone seems to wear ‘pyjamas’. He ‘befriends’ a Jewish 8 year old who lives behind the electric wire fence.

The acting is terrible, the characterization is terrible, the story is terrible (well, maybe it works as a book – on which is was based). It’s so simplistic and banal. It trivializes an important horrendous period of time. Just to make it more ‘appealing’ for those who think the reality is too grim.

It’s been a while since a movie rated high on imdb left such a terrible impression.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0914798

Amen – **(*)

Posted: December 7, 2014 in 2002, Drama, France, Germany, Historical, Holocaust, War, XX1/2

First the bad thing: this is a French/German production taking place in Germany and the Vatican, but everyone speaks English! Why do producers still believe that subtitles will harm the commercial success of a movie! (it will, for sure, but still)

Then the good news: it’s an important story that needs to be told. The inventor of the Zyklon B gas, Kurt Gerstein, is horrified when he learns what the Nazis do with his invention in the concentration camps. He pleads with the evangelical and catholic church to openly condemn these practices, but finds no response. One Jesuit priest has connections in the vatican and tries his best to get the pope to act firmly on the matter.

And finally the result: Amen tells the story like it should be told in school. It’s pretty neutral in explaining why certain instances did or did not do certain acts. The actual atrocities are not shown but suggested, making the movie accessible for a large audience. The criticism towards the cowardness of the evangelical and catholic churches is gentle, not harming their cause too much. So all you’re left behind with is a solid history lesson which could have been made for any tv channel.

For once they could have added more drama to the story. And spent more detail on character development. Ultrich Tukur and Mattieu Kassovitz are doing an okay job, but seem so remote in their performance. The same with all the others in the cast apart from Urlich Mühe, who steals the show as the successful bad guy. They all say their lines, they have their emotional expressions at the right time, but something is missing. They could have stressed the inner conflict more. After all, this story is all about the failure of certain instances to intervene in one of the most horrible events in recent history and everyone just acts like they don’t feel responsible.

This said, history is repeating itself at the very moment. Maybe schools should show this movie to their classes. Maybe in the end it’s good that it’s made in English so it reaches a larger audience.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0280653

 

Die Fälscher has been on my dvd shelf and in my travel dvd holder for years (some 50 other movies share the same fate), but for some reason it took me until today to finally watch it. It was worth the wait ! What an excellent movie.

Much has to do with the character of Sally Sorowitsch, a most intriguing Jewish counterfeiter who’s arrested by the Nazis and later placed as head of their own money forging business. His will to survive is enormous and if that includes collaborating with the nazis, than so be it. Soon after he’s been placed in a concentration camp he makes it known what his talents are in order to get a (slightly) better treatment than the others. And it works.

Both Karl Markovics (the actor) and Stefan Ruzowitzky (the director) are to be complimented for depicting a believable anti-hero. In fact, the whole cast and production team should be given kudos. The story is interesting, the characters aren’t one-dimensional, the script is well written, a lot of the background information is told with clever images, both explicit and suggestive…

Yeah, nothing to complain about at all. Apart from the soundtrack maybe and the Monte Carlo scenes in the beginning and at the end, which don’t add anything interesting to the story.

Great watch ! A must.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0813547/