Playing for Time (1980)

TV Movie  |   |  Drama, Music  |  30 September 1980 (USA)
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Reviews: 19 user | 8 critic

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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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
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Did You Know?


The real Fania Fenelon was upset over the casting of Vanessa Redgrave due to her support of the Palestine Liberation Organization. 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

One of the best movies I've ever seen about the struggle for humanity.
6 September 1999 | by (Mesa, AZ) – See all my reviews

This is a wonderful, powerful and very moving picture. This is one of the best WWII films surrounding the victims of the Holocaust. The dialog and acting throughout is superb! I too am aware that the Jewish Defense League didn't want Vanessa Redgrave playing the main character for political reasons. There should be NO politics in acting, just the right actors for the right roles. Ms. Redgrave is definately the right person for the role. I don't know all about her personal politics and don't care when it comes to seeing a movie like this one. Her commitment to this role is absolutely mesmerizing. I even heard that in addition to shaving her head for the role, she used a safety pin to injure her lip instead of just letting the makeup people fake something. She bares her soul in a way that few actors can. Jane Alexander is also very worthy as the Director of the orchestra that Fania(Redgrave) is a part of. If you get a chance to see this on tv, don't miss it. I am fortunate to have taped it when it originally aired. Some video stores may also have a copy. Remembering the past is a way to make sure it is never repeated- if you see this movie, it will be one more vivid memory of why we should never forget.

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