I thought this was going to be some sort of Eurocrime film and instead I get a extremely tense, grim story of the plight of the Jews in Rome during the Second World War.
During a Jewish baptism, two Gestapo officers appear in the synagogue and take away the head of the community. The SS Commander in Rome gives the head an ultimatum - they Nazis want fifty kilograms of gold from the Jewish community in two days, and if they don't get it, they want two hundred heads of the Jewish families as hostages instead.
This creates a huge panic in the community. Most want to give the gold, but aren't even sure if there's fifty kilograms of gold in the community, others want to run while others want to fight, including Davide, a young hot blooded Roman who claims even getting the gold won't help matters. His childhood friend Guilia may have a chance as her fiance is Catholic Roman Jean Sorel
, and the rules don't tend so much to spread to Jews who are in mixed marriages. We follow the community in general as they scrabble to survive.
It's hugely upsetting, this film. The characters are made-up but the situation was very real. The Jewish community of Rome really did have to scrape fifty kilograms of gold together from jewellery, family heirlooms, and contribution from non-Jewish Romans, even approaching the Vatican at one point. And, as the cobbler says "The Nazis will only keep one promise - the promise to destroy us all!". It was all for nothing. The 1,259 Jews remaining in the Ghetto when the Nazis showed up were all taken to Auschwitz. Only sixteen, sixteen, survived.
The last five minutes of this film are heartbreaking. Carlo Lazzani relates treats the story with respect.
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