Known for his haunting work on the holocaust, Italian chemist and author Primo Levi had his book IF THIS IS A MAN brought to the stage in September 2004. In 1944, Levi was imprisoned in ... See full summary »

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Known for his haunting work on the holocaust, Italian chemist and author Primo Levi had his book IF THIS IS A MAN brought to the stage in September 2004. In 1944, Levi was imprisoned in Auschwitz by German authorities who discovered he was Jewish. He spent 10 months incarcerated in barbaric conditions, then wrote of his horrifying experiences in IF THIS IS A MAN. The play was a one-man production from actor Antony Sher, whose notable performances include turns in the comedic SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and John Schlesinger's meditation on wartime romance, YANKS. This filmed version of the play sees Sher acting out some harrowing material as he brings Levi's words to life, and proves that he is an actor capable of plummeting to the depths of human despair with alarming ease. Written by Anonymous

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16 May 2005 (UK)  »

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Moving and brilliant, but not easy to watch
20 March 2008 | by (Netherlands) – See all my reviews

I was reluctant to watch this, having read the book about 10 years ago and vividly remembering all the horrible details. When I finally took the time to watch it, it took me some time to get used to the fact that this is not a film in the traditional sense. It feels a lot more like a play, a monologue delivered on a very stage-like set. But this for me is also the strong point of this film. With the simplest of means the grey, hopeless feel of a death camp is created; grey walls, doorways, a wooden chair, a table, light and sound. Antony Sher moves solemnly through these sets and somehow, through the magic of his acting, the whole of Auschwitz comes alive (a strange phrase for such an utterly dead place, but you know what I mean). You can almost feel the cold, the despair, the death, the hunger. This certainly does not make for easy viewing, least of all because Mr. Sher is often looking directly at you while delivering this horrible tale. Still this film, like the book, carries a very strong message: never again.

There was also a film made of Primo Levi's second book, The Truce, about his journey home to Italy. I was less impressed with that one but it may be worth watching after this, one to get a sense of the aftermath of the war for the survivors.


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