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Sarah's Key is a true story about the Jewish deportation in France
during the Second World War in 1942. It is told with very good placed
flashbacks mixed with the present. The emotional scenes were well
There were a few dramatic situations where I had tears in my eyes.
The actors delivered a solid job and especially the little girl Sarah played very strong.
All the humanity should never forget what happened in the past. This must be remembered for eternity.
If you are interested in these historic movies don't miss The Pianist, Der Letzte Zug, The Counterfeiters or Der Untergang. Read here my critic from each recommendation.
My vote and my wife: 8/10
Many years ago I watched the film with the cryptic name, "Mr. Klein,"
that I have often referred to over the years. That film about a
Parisian who was enjoying life in spite of the unpleasantness of the
Vichy government of a Nazi occupied country. Certainly, he was morally
disturbed by the treatment of Jews, but it didn't really concern
him----that is until he was mistaken for another man with his exact
name-who was a Jew.
Last night we saw "Sarah's Key" which was another dramatization of the same event that is now referred to as "Rafle du Vel' d'Hiv" a roundup of over 13,000 Jewish citizens of Paris that began on July 17, 1942 and ended in suicide or murder at the concentration camps of the Nazi genocide machine. What made this one different, is that it was carried out by the French authorities.
This review of the film is also a commentary of how films can provide a deeper way of understanding events, whether fictional or documentaries of past times that convey eternal truths. This is not wallowing in suffering, but experiencing it to be reminded of its reality, understanding of the dynamics that made it possible, and arm future generations with a vocabulary to prevent such calamities.
One of the central questions "Sarah's Key" raises is why those educated Jews who had heard rumors of the death camps and of the impending crackdown on their co-religionists (they were already wearing the yellow stars on their clothing) did not try to escape. While "Sarah's Key" depicts the conversations, the rationalizations, the disbelief that such inhumanity could actually occur in a civilized world, only "Mr. Klein" could actually get a viewer inside such people at that moment of terrifying epiphany, the realization that the civilized world that they had imagined was only an illusion.
The events of the Holocaust are now almost 70 years ago, and the characters in "Sarah's Key" question the value of stirring the pot of those terrible years where those who were complicit have either willfully rationalized their action, or mostly, inaction. What is the benefit of their descendants knowing the truth-a question masterfully explored in a recent documentary, "The Flat." Both that film and Sarah's Key, one fictional the other real, covers what is now three generation from those who could not believe in the extent of "man's inhumanity to man" to those who lived it, to our current older adults, who still need to be reminded that functioning society is an ephemeral thing that takes constant tending to preserve.
What is the value of these dramatization of the Holocaust, from the earliest of the genre, "The Diary of a Young Girl." If the effect is to think that the atrocities depicted in these films was an innate defect of the Germans or its collaborators at that moment of time, that we are better than that, it will be the wrong message. To take any comfort in such a thought is sewing the seeds of just such horror in a future time and place, where like those who perpetrated that roundup of Jews, it may be we who will be certain are doing unpleasant work that has to be done.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie Sarahs key goes back and forth 1942/2009: in the center is Sarahs key. When fetched by the French police 16/17 July 1942 (13152 victims according Préfecture de Police), Sarah hides her brother Michel in a secret closet, taking with her the key, sure to return soon. All are gathered first in the 'Vélodrome' (Vel' d'Hiv Roundup), then transferred to Beaune-la-Rolande internment camp and (transported to Auschwitz). The French-Anmerican journalist Julia Ormond has the task to write an article for the 60th anniversary. In the book and in the film returns again and again the denial: to remember and unable speak of the trauma, banned to the unconscious. Not a few accepted what happened, seeing and looking: unto today, as example Julias divorce from her French husband. Sarah runs, saving her life but marked by the unforgettable memory of Vel'd'Hive. Married in America and a mother to a son, William, never mentioned to him or others her experience, having the Dufaures name: Sarah ends her life by what is called 'accident'. Not unusual for the survived from 'Auschwitz'. Primo Levi was told by th guards: "You will never leave this camp and if, you will never forget." And so it was: many of the survivors could not live with their memories, ending by free will their unbearable life. In the book and film was of course the French guard Jaques, letting the two girls escape and the Dufaures: but also the French doctor, coming to the ill child and fetched by the Germans. Not the Germans in focus but the French, Julia: "Mike, this was not the Germans. This was the French." Yes, but the Germans ordered what happened in France by German decree. Sarah never forgot her brother, waiting for her to come. Among her belongings was her diary and the key: the symbol that she returned too late to fetch him. Sarahs fictitious key that made the novel and the movie possible: fiction and reality. 1995 apologizes Jaques Chirac, monuments are raised and memory gatherings are held. But what helps afterwards to apologize: it should never have happened. Courage was and still was/is needed in such moments and less cowardice.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A film of past and present, Sarah's key recounts the struggles and heartache faced by two women as they deal with great loss in their lives and attempt to run from the truth in an effort to deal with their pain. Living with guilt and dealing with the loss and the pain endured along the way become the central theme of this film. We watch as each woman finds ways to cope with their pain but also how running from the truth behind that pain will impact and change the course of their lives forever. As French police begin to roundup Jewish families in 1942 for deportation we learn about a young girl named Sarah, (Melusine Mayance (child) and Charlotte Poutrel (adult), and how the 1942 Roundup, as it is known today, would forever change her life. We are seamlessly transitioned between past and present throughout the film as a present day investigation by an American journalist named Julia (Kristen Scott Thomas), working on a anniversary piece about the incident, uncovers the pain of the life of a forgotten girl named Sarah. In an attempt to save her younger brother's life on that fateful day in 1942, Sarah locked him in a closet, only to leave him behind, unknowing to anyone as she and her parents are taken away by the French police. We watch Sarah's heart break as she makes many unsuccessful attempts to send help to free her brother. Eventually escaping from a concentration camp, she is taken in by Jules (Neils Arestrup) and Genevieve (Dominique Frot) Dufaure, who help her return home only to find her brothers rotting corpse. We watch as her new family struggles to help her cope with the guilt of his death and then confront a loss of their own when she decides to leave in pursuit of a life of her own. Even a husband and son could not heal the pain of her childhood loss and she eventually takes her own life. As a grown man, her son knows no truth about his mother's life and until his father confirms the facts, he is resistant to Julia's findings as she attempts to find closure on Sarah's life. In present day we watch as Julia becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Sarah and her family and learn that the childhood apartment of her husband, that they are currently renovating, was in fact the same home that Sarah was torn from so many years before. After learning many details from her father-in-law about the day Sarah returned home to find her brother we also learn of Julia's own personal loss. After discovering that she is pregnant, we learn of previous lost pregnancies and the toll it took on her and her family. Deciding against termination of the pregnancy, at the suggestion of her husband, we begin to see the struggles in their relationship and the truth they have been running from as well. The film Message In A Bottle shares a similar theme as the central concern also seems to revolve around dealing with loss, feeling of guilt to be alive, and concealing pain. Interestingly the films also share a similar plot in that a journalist seeks to uncover a story behind intriguing information about an unknown individual. Suggestive of the theme the lighting for this film had an overall darkness to it. The dim but natural lighting effects contributed greatly to the drama and emotions throughout the film. Additionally, the film was able to grab the viewer's attention by use of close up shots throughout the film. This particular technique focused the attention on the emotions of the actor thus drawing the viewer into the scenes providing the greatest dramatic significance in relation to the characters dealing with their losses. As the theme suggest, when we experience such tragic events in our lives it can seem easier to run from the pain than to face it head on. Living as though the events and losses never took place is in a sense hiding from the truth. Perhaps it is much easier to run from the pain than deal with the sadness and possible guilt of surviving the storm that those around us failed to do.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Over the past few months I have been turning my eye a bit to foreign
language films. First off out of the French films I have seen this one
is actually better than others I've seen.
The plot is that a Jewish family gets evicted from their home but the young daughter of the family locked the only other child in a cupboard, she then feels that she should escape the concentration camp and let him out, This may seem predictable even as I type this but here it is. She finds him dead in the cupboard with the new residents, later she then has a family and tries her best to forget about it all and eventually kills herself. Then there is a parallel story underneath it it's about a reporter looking for the life of this daughter (Sarah), she then starts digging up relatives with absolutely no idea that his went on except Sarah's Husband. Eventually Sarah's son gets convinced by his father that Sarah is who this reporter says she is and later finds out that this reporter (after 2 years) has a child named after his mother.
As far as narration and pacing goes Sarah's Key feels like a mixed bag, There are points in the movie where it hops from 1944-60's and 2009 when I feel almost nothing for the reporter looking at Sarah's life, at first when watching this reporter thing seems to be completely irrelevant until she starts to investigate Sarah's life.
I will say that Mélusine Mayance is a very good child actress, extremely convincing.
In the end this movie is decent entertainment I have seen better but I have seen FAR WORSE.
Sarah's Key is based upon the novel of the same name by Tatiana De Rosnay. It is a French film in English, French, Italian and German and with English subtitles. The film takes place in 1942 Paris, France and focuses on a Jewish family that among others during this time, were captured and placed in local camps as well as some German concentration camps. The film is told through the eyes of young Sarah, who is separated from her family during this time and we get to see a young child's view of these events which is both very troubling, but also showing these events in a way that is not usually presented on screen. The story then goes to 2009 where a journalist named Julia, is researching this particular event in history and happens to come across Sarah's story and the more she researches it, the more curious she gets and is bound to find out more and find and place an ending to the story. Sarah's Key works because like the journalist, Julia played very well by Kristin Scott Thomas, we also are very interested in Sarah's story and want to find out more of what happened to her during that time and also uncover more about her as a person. The film does deal with somewhat sensitive subject matter, but it is not overly violent, or graphic in any means and as I said, it does deal with a sensitive issue, but amidst all of it, there is still joy to be found in the stories in this film. I say this because on the one hand we see the very evil of human nature and mankind, but we are also introduced to characters and people who are very loving and will go out of their way to help and generally do good deeds. So on the one hand it is sad what we are seeing, but the film also gives us some hope and tenderness as well. All the performances here are very well done and I liked the script and while I can not compare it to the book because I have never read it, I liked that we are introduced to things as if we were reading a journalist's article about it and being able to place each piece of this metaphorical puzzle into place. By doing so we get to not only know the characters better, but to also care and feel for them as well. I have said before in my reviews on this site, that if you are going to make a movie about real events and are trying to show and tell people something about it and generally make them feel for the story and characters, then you have to make it feel personal and not make the film a big Hollywood spectacle where it feels like you are watching a really expensive movie and that is all that it is. The filmmakers here chose wisely and decided to make it a smaller more personal film where we can not only relate and care for the characters and story, but also get more from it and be generally both moved and at times horrified and saddened by it as well. The very idea to show these events through a young girl's eyes is nothing new for those who have read, or seen the various movie or television adaptations of The Diary of Anne Frank, but here we have a fictional story dealing with real historical events and it feels real and at times we feel we are there and it just gives us as people more empathy and understanding about the whole thing. Sarah's Key was a very moving film that I appreciated not only because of the talent in front of and behind the camera, but also for it's great storytelling that comes through with a message of courage and the kindness and evil of others that should resonate with all. It is personal and should hit home for those familiar and those not as well, which in my opinion is the effort and work of a great film. One of the year's best.
Directors that play with time in non-linear ways take the risk of losing an audience, especially when the shifts are frequent and involve different periods and distinct yet connected stories. Gilles Paquet-Brenner handles the flashbacks , and forwards, very skilfully and provides sufficient clues using color palette and locations to inform the audience that the shifts are taking place. We are not left behind guessing where or when we are supposed to be in this 2010 drama. The story is truly about people and how the horrific events of the time impacted so many people, and how it continues to have an effect. It points a gentle finger at all of us subtly suggesting that it wasn't just the Nazis that were responsible. Other civilized nations may be as guilty as the French for our role in not stepping up when we could have. The anti-Semitic views of my relatives resulted in many Jewish persons that sought refuge here in Canada being denied even when the alternative, the death camps, though never spoken of, may not have been a secret. The film doesn't judge as much as it lets us see how losing a family member, or benefiting from the misfortune of others, does not transpire without consequences of a deep and personal nature. The acting impressed me throughout; there were moments when I wasn't aware that I was watching a movie. I felt that I had been transported to the places that the characters inhabited. The scene when the little girl introduced herself to the camp guard was both convincing and very touching. It could have come off as being contrived but Mélusine Mayance made it work. Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia was credible as a journalist with her own issues vying for attention as the story unfolds. The Holocaust is an event we should not forget but it is not the focus of this film. Mostly it serves as a backdrop for a compelling story of human tragedy and the dangers of turning a blind eye to things that we know are wrong. Sarah's Key is a film worth seeing but be sure to have a few tissues at the ready. You will be touched.
This is a very watchable quality effort and will be appreciated by
history buffs ,the FRench are not as innocent in the conspiracy against
the Jews as we are led to believe. this in itself made the movie
genuinely interesting. Kirsten SK can be forgiven for her American
accent as she solidly drives this hitchcock mystery to a conclusion.
Great support all round as she meets and unravels the mystery of the
apartment and theft perpetrated by her husbands family. The comparisons
between modern day France and us and during ww2 can seen both
interesting and a bit laboured at times but stay with it as it
sometimes as a movie bounces around. Both pragmatic and touching we are
drawn into her obsession which results In hope and tragedy for all
concerned . But give it a try it's a human story placed over real
tragic events that are still be understood today. French
shame delicately exposed
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Holocaust movies are tricky efforts: the replication of history is
difficult to bear and distracts from the story, or the story is
literary and distracts from the reality. Schindler's list and Boy in
the Striped Pajamas are two examples of both attempts at the same time
with degrees of success. Add Sarah's Key, adapted from the best seller
by Tatiana de Rosnay, to my list, the sometimes sentimental story of a
young girl caught in the 1942 Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of Jews in Paris, not
by the Nazis but the capitulating French.
Although Sarah's (Melsuine Mayance) story, starting when she is 8 and locked her brother in a closet to keep him from being deported, is the stuff of fiction, the roundup is real as she is depicted losing her brother and parents in circumstances bizarre and mundane, the film being loaded with irony and paradox. Her journey to rescue him and modern day bi-lingual Julia's (Kristin Scott Thomas) search for the elderly Sarah uncovers not just the secrets of Sarah's flight but also the latent prejudices and denials lingering from that horrific event.
The story intercuts between eras to help show the immediate effect of the search on Julia's life and the universal sadness still living in the souls of the survivors. The film gently reveals the secrets and lies while it respects the complexity of the roundup and Shoa in general. Peeling away the layers of historical camouflage that cover even a family renting the rooms where the soon-to-be-corralled Staczinzky family lived is not easy. It isn't for those in the audience either who wonder what they would have done.
Sarah's Key is not perfect, for it tends to be more thriller than drama, the parallel stories of strong women are too balanced, and the ending leans toward the cliché and the sentimental.
Although I still love the less than historical Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but Sarah's Key has its own power to impress.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Taken as a whole, this film has to be considered a misfire. Though the
story of a little Jewish girl named Sarah locking her little brother in
a closet to hide him from police during WWII is interesting, the rest
of the film about a journalist attempting to track her down is not. In
spite of a good performance by Kristin Scott Thomas, her side of this
drama lacks intensity, authenticity, and even narrative purpose. Is it
only out of a sense of guilt that she wishes to track Sarah down?
Simply because her French husband's family moved into the apartment
with the little boy still locked inside the closet? Is this entire
movie an indictment of the French in general for officially
collaborating with the Nazis during the war? Is the reporter's
husband's reluctance at being a father so late in life a byproduct of
his country's selfish culture? I'm not sure, and personally have no ax
to grind against the French, but this movie seems to have such an
Sarah's key has some intense moments, but overall comes off as a Lifetime Network version of Schindler's list. Sarah is the story here. From the moment she discovers the fate of her brother we learn very little about her. She turned out to be a very attractive woman, so that was a plus. It is even hinted that she developed a taste for some of the wilder things in life, but exactly what those things were, this PG-13 rated film dares not tell us. Once we learn Sarah's eventual fate, we aren't that surprised, as guilt can be impossible to shake. But why couldn't we see more of her life after the war? Why do we need to learn about it in little nuggets from a reporter we really don't care about? Anyone else stunned she named her baby Sarah??? Never saw that coming. 6 of 10 stars.
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