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Alex is an 11-year old boy who, during WWII, hides in the Jewish ghetto from Nazis after all the relatives have been sent to the concentration camp. The movie portrays the ghetto through his eyes. Written by
A movie that still remembers what or who are the children
If it wasn't made by Kragh-Jacobsen I would be surprised.
But there are not many directors who can make a movie about a child, a whole movie with one child as a hero, a main character, and avoid one of two possible traps: either make a (usually low-intelligent) movie for kids (and adults who can believe it) and turn hero to superhero who can solve all problems and beat everybody all alone, or make a movie where all tragedies have to happen to a single child so the target adult audience can fill the bucket by draining their tear glandes.
Scandinavian authors are better than any others able to make a real movie about real children. They (as I wrote on another board) understand children as if they had invented them. Unfortunately, some modern, especially Danish movies suffer from Hollywoodization and though some can be good (like Klatretosen) they don't belong to the great tradition, they don't succeed the great movies from former decades.
Kragh-Jacobsen is not a typical example, but among the best. "Bird Street" is not exception, he made several movies about children in very different situations, but in similar style: these movies are about kids, can be watched by kids, but mostly try to present real kids to adults. However, he became worldwide famous by "Mifunes sidste sang". It's not a surprise because many western countries avoid Scandinavian kids movies, because they are too different. British authors used to do something in this style (sometimes even in darker mood like Loach), American kids are too infantile (but still beat adults...), Italians are too mature (because of social context), Czechs forgot that they have children (and were among the best in 70's), so only French authors can stand next to Scandinavians. And these movies don't seem to have audience in USA, either for not being interesting (for kids), or even for being controversial (for adults). As USA creates an opinion in almost whole world, things that are not accepted there usually can't make international success, and are convicted to stay within local region.
"Gummi Tarzan" was one of the first movies which seriously admitted that bullying exists and is a problem. "Skyggen af Emma" (his best work in my opinion) strongly opposes modern world widespread paranoia that makes our lives miserable, almost worthless. In both movies kids are involved in different and firm interactions with other people.
"Island on Bird Street" is a one-actor movie like Spielberg's "Duel". Unlike some dark power personalized in Spielberg's truck driver this movie deals with a very recognizable, yet equally dark power of nazism. And, what some other comments declare to be a fault, I find to be brilliant: Alex is not a superhero. He didn't do much exceptional things. His biggest success was that he survived. He often simply had luck. There are no cartoon Culkin tricks: he is afraid, he hides as every normal kid would do, and sometimes when he seems to do something brave, it is more because of hopeless resignation. But in the same time he can still feel joy in small things and in spite of accelerated maturation he keeps the soul of child and his real age comes to surface whenever allowed by the circumstances.
Two flaws: First, English language, and there is nothing to justify it. Second, the ending which is too false-romantic for reality (not fitting in harsh, cruel world of former 100 minutes)), and too vague if not realistic (being e.g. a dream in agony).
Neither of it should give second thoughts to any of those who believe that kids are still kids, despite what modern society tries to make them to be or make us believe they are. And if you are this kind of person, probably your children are ready to watch it with you.
11 of 14 people found this review helpful.
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