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Kapo is a black and white film that tells the story of a Jewish teenager sent to a concentration camp together with her parents. She manages to survive with the help of a Jewish doctor who gives her the identity of another woman who had died recently. Thus, Edith becomes Nicole and she is no longer a Jew, at least not in the papers. At first she is very sad about her parents' death but as time passed she realized she had to get out of that mood if she wanted to survive. So, she accepts an affair with a German officer even if she is only 14 and she starts getting privileges, becoming with time a Kapo, one of the women prisoners who were in charge with disciplining the other women. She knows it's the only way to survive but same time she lives in deep remorse even though she never shows any feelings.Written by
In the opening scene, Edith walks past some shops on her way back home. One of the shops look like it belongs to the booming 1950s than the more austere WWII period. There is a toy car or baby push car in the store window that shows the typical car design of the 1950s. See more »
Camp police (kapòs) were chosen from among the criminal group
This film relates the story of a 14-year-old Jewish girl during her captivity in a Nazi concentration camp. Her role is portrayed by 21 year old Susan Strasberg who had portrayed Anne Frank on stage and Kim Novak's little sister, Millie Owens, in Picnic (1955). Kapò was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1960, when the Oscar went to Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring.
In 1966, another Gillo Pontecorvo film---The Battle of Algiers--would be nominated in that same category. That year the Oscar went to A Man and a Woman. (I think that the Academy 'missed the boat THAT year!! The idea that The Battle of Algiers could be missed for its greatness is hard to imagine!)
As Kapò begins, Edith (Susan Strasberg), has just finished her harpsichord lesson and is going home when she sees her parents being arrested by the Nazis. When she runs to them, she too, is arrested. The family is transported in a boxcar to a concentration camp in Poland. Once there, the she is separated from her parents and taken to a separate cell block. Anxious to find them, she enters their cell block where we see the film's first terrible images of the over crowed and starving prisoners. While she is unable to find her parents, another female prisoner, Sofia (Didi Perego), sees her there and takes her to a camp doctor for help. Since Edith is new to the camp--and another girl her age had just died the night before--the doctor instructs her how to change her identity and be saved from certain death. As he explains, the prisoners are treated differently based on which patch they have on their smocks: a yellow Star of David indicates that they are Jews; a red patch (such as the doctor's) identifies them as political prisoners; and a black triangle indicates that they are criminals. The doctor tells Edith that she must cut her hair, change her clothes with those of the dead girl and take on a new identity, as Nicole Niepas, a non-Jewish criminal (with a black triangle on her smock).
Camp police (kapòs) are chosen from among the criminal group. They are hated by their fellow prisoners but useful to the SS officers who use them as their eyes and ears within the cell blocks. By being harsh on the other prisoners and reporting any resistance or planned insubordination to their Germans captures, the kapos are given special privileges such as food, clothing, and use of sanitary facilities. But, most importantly, if they do their jobs well, they are not likely to be exterminated with the other prisoners.
Later, Edith sees her parents being marched off to be killed in the gas chamber. With all hope lost, Edith (as Nicole Niepas) becomes a kapo. Her transformation from victim to 'victimizer' increases as she reports the activities of other prisoners and fraternizes with a German soldier in the camp. (She loses her virginity to one of the soldiers in the camp.) Her personal harshness is diminished when Russian POWs are taken to the same concentration camp and she falls in love with the Russian soldier, Sascha (Laurent Terzieff). As the Allies approach the camp near the end of the war in Europe, she agrees to take part in a daring escape plan. But, the as the plan takes shape, we realize that it is not totally without sacrifice..
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