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Playing for Time (1980)

TV Movie  |   |  Drama, Music  |  30 September 1980 (USA)
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Female prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp (Auschwitz) are spared from death in return for performing music for their captors.


, (uncredited)


, (autobiography: "The Musicians of Auschwitz")
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Title: Playing for Time (TV Movie 1980)

Playing for Time (TV Movie 1980) on IMDb 8.1/10

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 5 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Fania Fenelon
Alma Rose
Donna Haley ...
Lenore Harris ...
Mady Kaplan ...
Frau Schmidt
Marcell Rosenblatt ...


In World War II, the Jewish French musician and cabaret singer Fania Fenelon Goldstein is sent by the Nazis from Paris to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The guards take her clothing and luggage and they cut her hair very short. One day, when she is very weak, she hears someone asking whether any prisoner could sing Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly and she joins the group of musicians that have been spared from the gas chambers to entertain the Nazis performing music for them. She convinces the conductor Alma Rose to invite her friend Marianne, telling that she would be a talented singer. Along the years of abusive treatment, they survive but losing their dignity. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Music





Release Date:

30 September 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amarga Sinfonia de Auschwitz  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Barbra Streisand was originally offered the role of Fania Fenelon. Streisand resembles the real Fenelon much more than Vanessa Redgrave, who ultimately took the part. See more »


Lagerfuhrerin Maria Mandel is wearing the famous 1930s-era black SS uniform. This is very common mistake in many WW2 films. The Black SS uniforms were discontinued at the start of the war in 1939 and replaced by the Green or Grey uniform. Only Waffen SS tank crews wore black uniforms in combat. This was not, however, the all black uniform worn by the pre-war SS, but rather a short, black waist-cut coat similar in style to that worn by tank crews in the Wehrmacht. She also is wearing the SS Runes patch on her uniform which was not worn in any Camps. SS guards,doctors,officers and personal wore a patch with the Deaths Head (Totenkopf) symbol. See more »


Featured in The 33rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (1981) See more »

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User Reviews

An astonishing masterpiece
11 November 2004 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

It is amazing to me that this film is pretty much unavailable in any format.

What a cast. Vanessa Redgrave. Jane Alexander. Marisa Berenson. Verna Bloom. Melanie Mayron. And a subtle and evocative script by none other than Arthur Miller.

A summary of it sounds unpleasant and harrowing and to a certain extent it is. But there is extraordinary beauty in this daring and unusual picture. A group of women, all musicians, are allowed by the Nazis to remain alive on the condition that they amuse their captors with music.

It simply must be seen, and will never be forgotten. See this picture any way you can. I am sure that in time it will be rediscovered and seen for the sublime utterance that it is.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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