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Reviews & Ratings for
Fateless More at IMDbPro »Sorstalanság (original title)

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65 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

Really surprising from an American perspective

10/10
Author: Camoo from United States
4 August 2005

I saw this on a trip recently to Hungary and i have to say that I was really impressed. It stands up against the bigger movies made regarding this subject, and it stands proudly. It didn't try to tackle the enormity of the Holocaust as one user suggested, rather it tried (and succeeded in my opinion) in tackling the story and fate (or lack thereof) of a young Jewish- Hungarian boy during the second world war. How would one explain this sudden shift in reality to a boy who is still in the process of maturing? How much can he possibly understand? When the ordeal is finished, could anything be "real" again afterwords? I thought the subject matter was challenging enough for it to warrant a second viewing. Marcel Nagy is spectacular, the director chose an amazing face and voice for the part, the character's attitude towards what's happening is shockingly mature and disaffected. He doesn't break down crying, or screaming , "why?!", he simply accepts that this has happened and tries to deal with it almost entirely inside his head. he is an introvert, speaking softly, and politely to those around him. he doesn't ask too many questions because he already thinks he knows all the answers. and these terrible answers are projected to the audience with the use of his powerful blue eyes, and his vital facial expressions. (There are two scenes I think where the boy looks directly into the camera and makes eye contact with you, the audience and I almost burst out crying..) the look of the film was what made the rest so sublime, the grays and blues were so dis-enchantingly beautiful, and for you that it's somehow immoral to make a 'holocaust' film as beautiful as this one keep in mind the colors and look reflect only the beautiful mind of the boy. best way i could describe this is a 'dreamy nightmare'. there are no acts of violence (some minor, but no guns mowing down innocents like Schindler's List), just a quiet, reflective look at the human condition, which makes it especially relevant today, especially back here in the States... I think the main problem people had with this film was they were expecting something... a little more dramatic, while this is a very quiet, very slow film that will appeal to those who work on those frequencies....

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46 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Hauntingly beautiful

10/10
Author: Howard Schumann from Vancouver, B.C.
13 February 2006

There have been many films about the holocaust but none quite as intimate and personal as Hungarian director Lajos Koltai's Fateless. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz, Fateless is a hauntingly beautiful film whose narrative unfolds in the form of miniature vignettes rather than peak dramatic moments. The film is seen from the perspective of 14-year-old Gyuri Koves (Marcell Nagy), who spent a year in Buchenwald during the last days of World War II and who provides the narration. Unlike most films about the holocaust, it suggests that happiness and beauty can co-exist along with deprivation and despair.

Marcell Nagy is outstanding as Gyuri, the young man who moves from a childlike innocence to world-weariness in the span of one year. With his soulful face and expressive eyes, he is almost a detached observer, quietly pondering his fate. He is, in the Sufi saying, in the world, but not of it and the film unfolds as in a lucid dream that blurs the lines between appearance and reality. Koltai captures this almost matter-of-fact quality as Gyuri says goodbye to his father (Janos Ban) who has been ordered to work in a Nazi labor camp. Because Hungarians did not feel the full brunt of Nazi persecution until the Nazi takeover in 1944, Gyuri thinks his father is just going to have to work hard and that nothing will happen to him. Neighbors and relatives who reassure him that everything will be all right do not further his grasp of reality.

When the boy and his friends are detained on a bus on the way to work, he learns quickly that "his carefree childhood days are now over". Still not comprehending the magnitude of what is taking place, he is annoyed but not frightened and does not seize the opportunity to escape offered by a friendly cop. Even when he arrives at Auschwitz, he sits on the ground shaven and wearing a striped uniform, talking with friends as if he was in a school playground during recess. When Gyuri discovers that "he could be killed at any time, anywhere", he attains a sort of spiritual freedom and his determination to survive is increased. Pretending to be sixteen, Gyuri escapes the gas chamber and is sent to Buchenwald and then to a smaller camp.

The scenes of murder, death, and dying at the camps are thankfully left to the imagination and the film focuses on Gyuri's personal reactions to what he sees around him. Koltai, a cinematographer for twenty-five years, creates a visual cinematic poem in which his color palette is so muted that we experience the mud and the atmosphere of cold and gray almost viscerally. Sadly, we watch Gyuri's transformation from the confident teenager we saw at the beginning to an emaciated number, his leg so swollen and infected that he can barely walk. In voice-over, however, he talks about the hours between work and the evening meal as one of quiet reflection and about the joy in discovering a piece of meat or potato in his soup. He is also sustained by a friend he develops in fellow Hungarian Bandi Citrom (Aron Dimeny) who protects him and tries to teach him the skills of survival. Bandi, ever the optimist, proclaims, "I will walk down Nefelejcs Street again" One of the surprises in the film is the treatment Gyuri receives at what looks like a camp hospital. He is cleaned, allowed to sleep alone in a bed and taken care of, a set of circumstances not usually associated with extermination camps, yet based on Kertesz' actual experience. The most discussed aspect of the film, however, takes place in Budapest after the liberation. Gyuri feels more alone than he did at Buchenwald and even expresses a sort of homesickness for the camaraderie he felt at the camp. Friends and neighbors who were not in the camps cannot understand what it was truly like and Gyuri cannot explain it. Even if he could, no one really wants to hear anything that rattles their preconceptions.

He rebels at playing the role of the victim and says, "there is nothing too unimaginable to endure". When asked about the atrocities, he talks of his happiness. "The next time I am asked", he says, "I ought to speak about that, the happiness of the concentration camp. If indeed I am asked. And provided I myself don't forget". His "happiness", according to Kertesz, who also wrote the screenplay, is not a form of denial but an act of rebellion against those who do not see him any longer as a human being, only as a victim. It was a way of assuring his responsibility, of defining his own fate rather than having others decide it for him. For me, it also added a portal into the sublime.

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55 out of 78 people found the following review useful:

A riveting epic hymn for life

8/10
Author: retibar from Hungary
19 February 2005

'Fateless' was a never-seen blockbuster in Hungary if we can use the term for Hungarian movies. It attracted so many viewers that no Hungarian film has done before and as it's not surprising that a Holocaust-film like this divides the audience. Thousands of readers had fallen in love with Imre Kertész's Nobel-prized novel, and expectations in this case are very high. However this film does NOT have to make any disappointment and opposite to some critics' opinion it holds the same meaning the novel holds. Don't forget that Kertész is the screenwriter too, it is his true story, a man's who went through all these and kept the respect of life so could find happiness after and during this. He agreed this film's value. The movie has some great actors, wonderful pictures and lots of very good, atmospheric scenes with very real memorable characters. The score is extremely beautiful how it's natural if the composer is Ennio Morricone.

There are weaknesses too, of course, some dialogues, mainly in the beginning of the film are not natural (maybe it comes from Kertész's newness in film-writing), it' very disturbing as some weak acting in a few episodes. Marcell Nagy is not a bad choice for the leading role, he has the look and the power in his eyes but in speech he's not convincing, it drops you out of the atmosphere sometimes but it won't bother the not-Hungarian audience.

'Fateless' is an impressive European masterpiece, Hungary should be proud of it.

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34 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

A Very Moving Motion Picture

9/10
Author: foldy from Los Angeles
9 November 2005

Saw this film at the AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles. It is an amazingly well made, well acted motion picture about a very difficult subject. The direction and cinematography were excellent. The lead boy was only 12 when the film was shot, yet he delivers a mature, sensitive and deeply emotional performance.

The film is long but very compelling and speaks loudly about man's inhumanity to his fellow man. The message is even more disturbing when told through the eyes of a young teenager who is caught up in the atrocities of the Nazis and their Hungarian allies.

If this film were in English or directed by Steven Spielberg, it would no doubt win numerous awards. Let us hope that "Fateless" is recognized for it's bravery and excellence.

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21 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Vivid Recreation of the Hungarian Jewish Experience of the Holocaust and Its Afternath

8/10
Author: noralee from Queens, NY
18 February 2006

"Fateless (Sorstalanság)" has to answer: Why make yet another non-documentary film about the Holocaust? While of course every victim and survivor had an individually horrific experience and are essential witnesses, for film viewers, what unique viewpoint or story is there to watch that we haven't seen through tears before?

It takes quite a while for the viewer to understand that the point of Nobel-prize winning Imre Kertész's adaptation of his debut, semi-autobiographical novel is to tell the specific story of Hungarian Jews, as zero context is provided for the opening, anecdotal scenes, no dates, no background information on where in World War II we are starting from and not even how much time is passing in the first third of the film as the Nazis' net tightens on Budapest's Jews.

Perhaps director Lajos Koltai's goal in not providing the kind of context that was carefully established on films where he was the cinematographer, "Sunshine" and "Max," was to help us understand the bewilderment of the diverse Jewish community-- observant and secular, capitalists and workers, young and old, and the randomness of what happened to them. Families coalesce in confusion as they are buffeted by scraps of information, changing government directives, amidst anti-Semitism and collaboration by their fellow Hungarians. We're also supposed to believe, however, that amidst these confusions the young teen protagonist (the very expressive Marcell Nagy) has extensive philosophical discussions with his play mates, and the girl next door who he of course has a crush on, about Jewish identity. Otherwise, his WWII experiences look a lot like the boy's in Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun."

The next third of the film is gruesome experiences in concentration camps as we have seen before, even though these are extremely effectively re-enacted as the huge cast of actors and extras desiccate before our eyes. The production design in recreating the bare shelter and their work detail is the most realistic I've seen in a fiction film, as compared to documentaries and as described to me by a cousin who was the sole Holocaust survivor in our family (I'm named for her father who died in Auschwitz).

Halfway through these horrors, the theme of the film as to the uniqueness of the Hungarian experience starts to come through more than the usual Nazi sadism. Survival is linked to mutual dependence, camaraderie and bonding that comes from their national identification, even more than their shared religion (we see a few inmates nobly strive to maintain Jewish rituals). Individual personalities vividly come through and attitude and the help of one's fellow man turns out to be as important as food, as life is reduced to its most basic elements. The only other film I've seen that communicates this as emotionally was Peter Morley's documentary "Kitty: A Return to Auschwitz," about an essential mother/child bond.

Even during the camp experience, though, some subtleties are lost by lack of context for an English-speaking audience, as a few scenes were confusing to me as there was evidently significances if a character was speaking German or Hungarian, and that difference went by me. The German signage was not translated, so the last part of the boy's Buchenwald experiences was also confusing, unless the point was that he was mystified as well. The voice over narration throughout is, unnecessarily, for philosophical ruminations and does not communicate any additional information than the stark visuals and conversations.

With liberation indirectly providing the first date reference in the film as we presume it is 1945, Daniel Craig has a cameo as an American soldier, in his second appearance in a film in the past year as a Jew, after "Munich." His role recalls Montgomery Clift in Fred Zinnemann's 1948 "The Search," as one of the few films to also portray the wandering Jews as Displaced Persons amidst the rubble of Europe and their destroyed lives and communities.

The last section is movingly unique and vital viewing as we see Europeans, who we know from France to Russia but here particularly Hungarians, will settle into their amnesia and denial of responsibility, what a survivor in a documentary called "the 81st blow" that is the worst of all. While issues of vengeance are included in passing, the survivors seem like ghosts in their tattered prison garb as haunting images that affront and challenge returning normality like echoes of a nightmare that should go away in the light of day. The survivors are suffering from post-traumatic stress and cannot communicate what happened to them in language that the curious, whether family, friends or strangers, can understand-- or want to understand. The visceral impact is again marred by duplicative philosophizing.

Ennio Morricone's score emphasizes the potential for humanity, with beautiful vocalizations by Lisa Gerrard.

As to the cinematography, indiewire reports that the film used bleached-bypass color prints, with laser-applied subtitles: "In the concentration camps, it becomes more monochromatic. And after the liberation, the color comes back in." I saw it still in first run at NYC's Film Forum and the print was already scratched quite a bit, and there were frequent white on white subtitles.

A neighbor whose family had experiences as in the film provided background: "The Germans entered Hungary on March 19, 1944. They had exactly one year to do there what they did in Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc. in 6 years. The deportations started around April-May of 1944 from the outskirts of the country, leaving Budapest to the end and since the war was over the following May, there was no time to deport them as well. Jews from Budapest had to be terribly unlucky to be sent to the chambers. That's why my parents, who survived, and grandparents, who did not, were sent to the camps because they did not live in the capital. It was very haphazardly done from the capital. There were several groups of Jews who were taken from labor camps to the front in the Ukraine."

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19 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Well made, well acted, well told.

8/10
Author: myfavoriteartform from Seattle
19 December 2005

Sorstalanság (Fateless) is the memoir of Imre Kertesz's survival of the Shoah. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002, despite being relatively unknown in the West. At the time, many thought that this was "the Primo Levi prize", i.e. making up for the failure of the academy to award the Nobel to Levi, prior to his death in 1987 (the Nobel is never awarded posthumously).

If one has read Levi's Survival at Auschwitz, or Elie Wiesel's Night, many of the details of the story are familiar. But the craft is in the telling, and the director has done an excellent job of bringing a memoir of brutality and survival to life.

A brief synopsis, without spoilers, is that this is the story of a teenaged boy in Budapest in 1944 who is swept up in the Nazi roundup of Hungarian Jewry, and his experience in the concentration camps. (Elie Wiesel was interred in the same roundup.) The story of how Eichmann tried to ransom Hungarian Jewry to the West is interesting background, for those who are intellectually curious. (The allies were afraid to provide materiel and resources to the Nazis, fearing prolongation of the war. A very sad tale).

Making a film of the Holocaust is always a challenge. A director must strive to make the scenes powerful, without being melodramatic. There is also the danger of making another movie over again (eg, Schindler's List; The Reawakening; Europa, Europa). The challenge is to remain faithful to truth, while bringing artistry to the telling of it.

One device which is used to great effect is the use of very brief scenes, perhaps less than one minute, which tell a brief vignette of the daily life in the camps. Some have very little dialog, and they seem random and unconnected, yet together they add to a deeply moving experience.

Many films of the Holocaust are shattering; a few are hopeful. This is neither, but it is a telling of the story that is watchable for most audiences, yet retains the power to affect a viewer. 8 out of 10.

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19 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

More than a holocaust movie

9/10
Author: gilwen-1 from Hungary
15 September 2005

First of all, I have to tell, that I have not read the book yet, so I don't know how the book is like. But in my opinion the movie, in itself is really good. For me the movie had two major meanings. First, that all of us, who were not there in the camps, will never be able even to imagine how that was like. And the second, that people don't really listen to what you want to tell them, they listen to that, what they want to hear, and if your story does not satisfy them, because they want to hear something else, or because they can't accept your point of view, you will be left alone... And you will be lonely even among people of your own kind. And I think that's why this kid is fate-less, he himself tells at the and of the movie, he has to continue his life, which is not possible to continue, and he has to do this alone, because no one ever will understand him. Even fate has forsaken him.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A fresh look at the worst of times

8/10
Author: FilmFlaneur from London
8 October 2006

Critics have compared Fateless to such other award winning films around the same subject, notably Robert Benigni's Life Is Beautiful (aka: La Vita è Bella, 1997), and Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993). Whilst in interview on the UK DVD the director Koltai doesn't mention Benigni's comedy of doom, in passing he does cite the Spielberg, to whom he makes it clear that Fateless is in some degree at least, a riposte. For the director, Schindler's List is "a mistake for those who know what really happened" is his view, which represents "no victory for humanity." The determined un-sentimentality of Koltai's film reflects that view, something which he goes as far as to transpose formally into a particular editing technique - an approach that audiences, more used to a cosy and somewhat predictable view of the Holocaust, will find striking. Koltai's treatment of narrative in his film, characteristically breaking down stark events into short, impressive scenes that fade to black, he terms "a series of études." Such a treatment serves to isolate the protagonists in time, away from the emotionality that a more connected continuity encourages. Indeed for Koltai "time is the... terrible... sentence," and the main motive behind his film, rather than outright shock, and his film has great power precisely through this denial of the usual response.

An easy criticism of Fateless is that conditions of the camp are shown as persistently harrowing, but rarely explicitly violent. The hero Köves is starved, slapped and humiliated, but rarely does the viewer see an on-screen killing, even if the stench of the crematoria is omnipresent. So much is real horror left unseen in fact that at the close of the film, upon his return, there's a scene where Köves is quizzed about the existence of gas chambers by a doubtful citizen at his home station. As a confirmation it is surely unnecessary for the audience, as we've seen them earlier. One suspects that the importance of this brief exchange is instead to assert, once and for all, that Köves acknowledges the reality of the horror he's seen. Whether or not such epic tragedy, and his involvement in it, has enriched his humanity, a la Spielberg, is another matter entirely. By the end, Köves thinks back to his experience almost nostalgically, to the camps where "life was cleaner and simpler" and "where there's nothing too unimaginable to endure." As one might expect from an acclaimed cinematographer, much of Fateless looks superb. Whether its the snowflakes, like the millions of spirits already departed, floating inside the cattle trucks that speed the Hungarian Jews to their fate, or the field of camp mates, paraded mercilessly in the heat, and wavering in their distinctive striped uniforms, Koltai's eye creates haunting moments which remain with the viewer long after the closing credits. Arguably such poetry detracts from the grim reality of the camps in which a good deal of the film is set; but a good deal of the film is shot in muted colours, a blanched scheme, as if the warmth of life has bled out into genocide.

Performances are generally excellent, notably that of Nagy. Interviews on the disc show the young actor's nervousness at some of the more demanding scenes (and the increasing time required spent in make up as his on screen physical deterioration continues) but he plays a role which takes him from the dining room of the family home of Budapest to the death carts of Zief, without faltering. Fateless is an international co-production between Hungary, German and England. All three languages make their appearance, and so - incidentally - does the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, as Köves' liberation approaches. Here playing a concerned GI, who strongly suggests the boy seeks out a new life and a university place in the west, Craig makes a brief, if effective impression. As it turns out Köves' ultimate decision is characteristic of a film that favours reality over idealism.

But for those who seek the unrelenting grimness of camp life depicted as in, say, One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovitch (1970), or the memorable depiction of the hardening of innocence into vengeful shock (Come And See), Fateless will doubtless prove a slight disappointment. Ennio Morricone's excellent score notwithstanding, which gives events here an occasionally pathetic sheen, this is a film which in many ways raises more issues and questions than it answers, and certainly offers no stereotypical picture of a ghastly time. Instead, by asking the audience to question preconceptions, it stakes claim to being one of the more important Holocaust dramas of our time.

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Concentration camp through the eyes of a teenage boy

9/10
Author: Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California
8 March 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Fateless (Sorstalanság ) grows out of a famous novel by 2002 Nobel laureate in literature Imre Kertész based on his experiences as a 14-year old Jewish boy from Budapest held in Nazi concentration camps toward the end of the War, released, and returned home.

When we first meet him, Gyuri Köves (Marcell Nagy) is sort of cool: tall, thin, self-possessed, with big puff-head hair -- rather like a young Bob Dylan.

We enter a world of confusion and denial which he is forced to inhabit. Gyuri is conscientious about keeping his Star of David showing as he walks home across a square, as if it's a point of sartorial pride. He doesn't know very well the Hebrew liturgy he's asked to repeat in his family, but he's not like the neighbor girl he fancies, who cries because she doesn't know what it means to be a Jew. Gyuri arrives to find his father deprived of his business and commanded to go off to "work camp." Gyuri's assigned to work in a factory and two elders -- a Kafkaesque pair, whom we'll meet again when the war's over -- argue vociferously over whether he should go to his job by bus or by train, as if that decision would resolve the whole predicament. The women are silently weeping, the men self-deceived hypocrites: or are they being brave?

Gyuri is detached and confident, up for trying a little smooching during an air raid. He's not a hero but he seems capable of thriving. Nonetheless he almost dies in the camps. In fact when he's back he says he's already dead. "Maybe I don't exist," he tells the girl he flirted with before.

Gyuri isn't taken away in a terrifying sweep like the Warsaw Ghetto sequence in Schindler's List; in fact, things continue to be Kafkaesque. He's pulled off a bus going to the factory and held up with some others by an inept cop who waits for orders, all at sea himself. The whole process of going to the camps seems like a series of bureaucratic snafus. Later Gyuri observes that there were many points where anyone might have escaped. (See Kafka's The Trial.)

A crucial point comes when a lot of boys are unloaded at Auschwitz and somebody tips them off to claim they're 16. A German soldier with the face of a cadaver thumbs Gyuri to the right, to work. A littler, bespectacled boy and an officious engineer who brags of his skills and his "perfect German" are sent left, to die.

From Buchenwald Gyuri's sent to a smaller camp where there aren't even gas chambers and crematoria. From then on the camp experience is a series of short sequences ending in blackouts, nightmarish vignettes that stay in the moment and avoid grand scenes -- except for the hanging of three escaped prisoners who've been caught. Characters emerge only to disappear in the chaos of camp life. A man who's just survived four years in a Soviet prison camp becomes Gyuri's protector and mentor, showing him how to horde bits of food and keep clean to avoid lice and disease.

But Gyuri eventually balks at this second level of control, lets himself fall prey to hunger and exhaustion, grows scabby and corpse-like and collapses with a swollen and infected knee. It's treated but then gets even worse and he's thrown on a pile of corpses, the undead among the almost dead and the already dead. Through this his voice-over comments on scenes that unroll for us. Sloughing through rain and mud, always cold, hungry, thirsty, the boy still sees a beauty in the twilight hour when they return from work, eat, and have a minute of peace in this stark hell-hole in which later he says they were happy, because things were simple and clear.

The young actor grew four inches during film-making and his voice changed. It's his deeper voice that narrates and tells us at the end about a nostalgia for this clarity and simplicity, for "the happiness of the camps" that no outsider ever knows about, and his physical transformation echoes the transformation of his character whose body is still a teenager's but whose mind is middle-aged.

Somehow the boy ends the war in a prison hospital that restores his strength. The most astonishing moments come when (resisting an American officer's advice to go to Switzerland, then to America) Gyuri returns to Budapest. Here he is back in town, cadaverous, sunken-eyed, scabby-lipped, in prison stripes, yet somehow firm and proud, on a Budapest trolley answering a man's questions, explaining to him that in the camp, beatings and starvation were all quite "natural." This and encounters with the would-be girlfriend and family and neighbors are the freshest moments in this beautiful, painful, eye-opening look at the Nazi persecution.

Director Koltai has long been a fine cinematographer and the visuals in Fateless are striking, the horrible smoke from the ovens lovely in the evening light, even as they make the young hero realize what it means and declare, "We are all going to die." Kertész has his own dry take on his subject: "Auschwitz is the human condition, the end point of a great adventure, where the European traveler arrived after his two-thousand-year-old moral and cultural history." Showing the camps through the eyes of a pubescent boy who suffers but experiences beauty is essential to the cold neutrality of the author's viewpoint, and director Koltai has recreated things in a way that never feels manipulative. No tragic sweeping strings -- no tragedy at all; rather a mix of grim suffering and transcendence that takes you close to the experience, without letting you pretend that you've been there.

When someone asks Gyuri how he is when he's back he answers, "Very, very angry."

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Learning the Meaning of Life in a Concentration Camp

10/10
Author: gradyharp from United States
3 June 2006

'Sorstalansag' (FATELESS) is an inordinately powerful, quiet journey through a year in Nazi Concentration Camps at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Zeitz. Adapted by Imre Kertesz from his first novel, the story is semi-autobiographical as Kertesz spent a year of his youth in Auschwitz as a Hungarian Jew. Though Kertesz alters his novel of the life of one Gyorgy Koves, in a manner he carefully explains in one of the featurettes accompanying this DVD, the observational skills and tenor of his literate mind suffuse this surprisingly quiet depiction of life in a death camp.

We first meet Gyorgy Koves as a curly headed handsome 14-year old youth in 1944 bidding farewell to his beloved father as he departs for a labor camp. Wearing the yellow star of David proudly, Gyorgy has little understanding of what it is to be a Jew, a lesson he will learn in the coming year and affect his perception of the world and his place in it. Gyorgy's mother left his father and his father has remarried and requests that Gyorgy stay with his stepmother while he is away 'for a while' in the labor camp. Gyorgy is conflicted as he loves his mother but he does as his father requests. Almost inadvertently Gyorgy and his friends are taken off a bus and separated by the Nazis into trains bound for concentration camps. Gyorgy remains relatively naive about what is happening: his head is shaved, his worldly goods are absconded, and he begins the hellish life of survival in Auschwitz. Where Kertesz writes differently than other authors who have described Holocaust conditions is in his mindset of Gyorgy: Gyorgy strives to retain a sense of equilibrium in this bizarre new life, seeing certain events as probable errors, mistakes, or simply 'the way things are'. He endures starvation, brutal work, pain from an injured and infected knee, boredom, and observing sights of torture of his fellow prisoners. Though he is walking in a stunned world, he is still able to fine the little moments of 'happiness' because of his youthful outlook and creative mind. He gradually grows to understand what being a Jew means, and while he is unable to fathom all he sees in captivity, he learns that if he can't understand life in a concentration camp, how can he understand life outside either. Gyorgy is literally on the carts moving toward the crematorium when the Allies free the camp. He meets an American (Daniel Craig) who suggests he not return to Budapest, but go to America instead where he can pursue a new existence. Yet Gyorgy's devotion to family, to country, and to being a Jew returns him to Budapest where he finds a destroyed city that had been home and wanders the town square trying to make sense of it all.

As Gyorgy Koves, Marcell Nagy gives a stunning performance, a picture of a child/man who is forced to enter the world of adulthood via the horrors of Auschwitz. Nagy captures the essence of the character with minimal dialogue and maximum use of his body language and eyes. The supporting cast is superb, each creating vignettes in the few moments we see them that burn into our memory. The cinematography by Gyula Pados uses subdued color for the scenes outside the camps and a subtle sepia toned black and white or the scenes within the walls of the terrifyingly real buildings and yards of the camps. The musical score by Ennio Morricone sustains the mood throughout. But it is the director Lajos Koltai whose impeccable sensitivity to Kertesz' writing and vision that makes this long (140 minutes) film a seamless pondering of the passage of time - minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, etc - that is the essence of Gyorgy's survival of a nightmare 'with little moments of happiness wherever they may happen'. This is a magnificent film, by a gifted crew, and though it contains visuals that will crush your heart, it must be seen to be believed. In Hungarian and German and English with subtitles. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp

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