Playing for Time (TV Movie 1980) Poster

(1980 TV Movie)

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The best TV production ever.
hooshi3 April 1999
Firstly I have to say that this is not your usual stereotype Jewish holocaust movie: It goes much, much beyond any ideological rhetoric, to deal with Human condition.However, you have the Concentration Camp as a background for one of the best contemporary playwrights (arguably The best!) to create and develop his masterpiece .It is worthwhile to know that Arthur Miller persisted in his demand to put Venessa Redgrave in the the leading role, in spite of all the threats and protests of JDL.Here, she presents one of her most magnificent performances as an Artist trapped in the most dehumanizing conditions one could imagine.The dialogue is absolutely superb, and the actings are quite decent.A must see.
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An astonishing masterpiece
surreal_subtext11 November 2004
It is amazing to me that this film is pretty much unavailable in any format.

What a cast. Vanessa Redgrave. Jane Alexander. Marisa Berenson. Verna Bloom. Melanie Mayron. And a subtle and evocative script by none other than Arthur Miller.

A summary of it sounds unpleasant and harrowing and to a certain extent it is. But there is extraordinary beauty in this daring and unusual picture. A group of women, all musicians, are allowed by the Nazis to remain alive on the condition that they amuse their captors with music.

It simply must be seen, and will never be forgotten. See this picture any way you can. I am sure that in time it will be rediscovered and seen for the sublime utterance that it is.
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superb performance by Vanessa Redgrave
sroimoi2 February 2000
Playing for Time deserved theatrical release, but as TV fare, perhaps among the finest, ranking up there with The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Being a Jew, I received a lot of flak for applauding Vanessa Redgrave's magnificent performance, but one needs to separate the art from the politics. While physically Ms. Redgrave does not at all resemble the real Fanelon, one can't help feeling that she captured the role. My only criticism is the newswreel type footage used to depict the moving trains. First rate movie
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Perhaps the best ever movie that has been unrecognized.
dewey2227 August 1999
I was more impressed by Vanessa Redgrave's performance than any female performance , in any medium. As a musician prisoner in a Nazi death camp, she exceeded any of her other brilliant performances. Aside from Vanessa, the movie should not be missed and hopefully released again.
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very moving human drama
freebird-915 March 2004
This moving human Drama is one of the most touching movies I have ever seen.

Vanessa Redgrave is superb and strong as Fania Fénelon, a jewish singer from

France ending up in Auschwitz, and makes the role of her life.

I would say it is as important and grand as 'Schindler's List' and 'The Pianist', about the horrors of the Holocaust.

So, why is this not available on video? I've been trying for years to get hold of a copy of this moving drama.. and nobody seems to know who's holding the

copyright... It's really a shame that this classic is not available on dvd!!
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One of the best movies I've ever seen about the struggle for humanity.
rondine6 September 1999
This is a wonderful, powerful and very moving picture. This is one of the best WWII films surrounding the victims of the Holocaust. The dialog and acting throughout is superb! I too am aware that the Jewish Defense League didn't want Vanessa Redgrave playing the main character for political reasons. There should be NO politics in acting, just the right actors for the right roles. Ms. Redgrave is definately the right person for the role. I don't know all about her personal politics and don't care when it comes to seeing a movie like this one. Her commitment to this role is absolutely mesmerizing. I even heard that in addition to shaving her head for the role, she used a safety pin to injure her lip instead of just letting the makeup people fake something. She bares her soul in a way that few actors can. Jane Alexander is also very worthy as the Director of the orchestra that Fania(Redgrave) is a part of. If you get a chance to see this on tv, don't miss it. I am fortunate to have taped it when it originally aired. Some video stores may also have a copy. Remembering the past is a way to make sure it is never repeated- if you see this movie, it will be one more vivid memory of why we should never forget.
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What Vanessa told me
steve-13387 April 2005
This is a great movie and I've seen it on TV. I cannot understand why there is no DVD or video -- except that Vanessa Redgrave once told me that he movie was "banned" in the United States because of her support of the Palestinians.

I told her I had seen it on TV and that her last scene at the liberation of Auschwitz was extraordinary.

Another reason I liked the movie was that it was the first film even to mention my personal heroine, Mala Zimetbaum, about whom I have written.

My story about Mala can be found at:
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An Excellent Movie
Lew Gordon3 May 2002
It has been years since I have seen this on TV. Being Jewish and understanding the holocaust, I love this movie with Vanessa Redgrave. I just wish it came on TV more. The visuals were excellent, the plot very real, and it was an absolute delight to see how well it was portrayed.
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My comments once again stirred deep emotions for these people
pipic828 June 2002
One of the most haunting,soul-wrenching dramas I have ever seen, made much more so because it actually happened! The cruelty & unfeeling actions portrayed by the German officers gave me the feeling that I wanted to scream! It was so gut-wrenching. It is a movie we all should see lest we forget the reign of terror inflicted by the horror's of war.
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Not just another tv movie...
perci1317 July 2002
This made for tv movie should have been made for the big screen.

It was a great story and had such moving performances. Linda Yellen should be making feature films. I'll always be looking out to see if it will be rerunning on tv.
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One of the Most Touching and Realistic Films about Survival and Loss of Dignity in a Concentration Camp
claudio_carvalho10 August 2012
In World War II, the Jewish French musician and cabaret singer Fania Fenelon Goldstein (Vanessa Redgrave) is sent by the Nazis from Paris to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The guards take her clothing and luggage and they cut her hair very short. One day, when she is very weak, she hears someone asking whether any prisoner could sing Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly and she joins the group of musicians that have been spared from the gas chambers to entertain the Nazis performing music for them. She convinces the conductor Alma Rose (Jane Alexander) to invite her friend Marianne (Melanie Mayron), telling that she would be a talented singer. Along the years of abusive treatment, they survive but losing their dignity.

"Playing for Time" is one of the most touching and realistic films about survival and loss of dignity in a concentration camp. I have a great admiration for the awarded Mrs. Vanessa Redgrave and I believe that "Playing for Time" is her best role and performance in her admirable career. I had seen this television film many years ago on VHS and yesterday I saw it in a Brazilian DVD that unfortunately does not have an image of good quality but anyway it is worthwhile watching this to see and never forget how cruel human being may be. My vote is ten

Title (Brazil): "Amarga Sinfonia de Auschwitz" ("Bitter Symphony of Auschwitz")
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soul stirring & awesome film !!
bnjacres2 March 2005
does anyone have a copy of this film as i would be grateful to purchase it......have been looking a long time !!! if a copy is out there i will gladly cover any costs incurred to make & send it to me. the content of this film is truly a must for all to see. so revealing of the hatred endured & the unprecedented will to survive.i appreciate the work these actors portrayed of the human spirit to survive !!!!!!!!!i am drawn to movies with the content of the holocaust......the devastation endured & the strength to worship & honor their faith... literally in the face of death is a tribute to believe in one's faith no matter the cost, to remind the world that hatred for others must not be tolerated !!
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Arthur Miller
Lynn-Redmond11 February 2005
I was in this movie (I was Marisa Berenson's stand-in) and Arthur Miller was on the set almost every day. As was his wife - taking pictures. Talk about a living legend. I regret, to this day, that I did not get his autograph (although I did get Vanessa Redgrave's and a few other's). Just being in the presence of this man was an incredible experience. What a privilege it was for a "small town girl" to experience this. It lives through me to this day - my daughter (born long after my experience on this film) is very interested in the Holocaust because of my experience on this film. My best wishes go out to his family. I don't think - in our lifetime - we will EVER experience a talent such as his. He will be missed!
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A view from alternative press
cmdrlyur18 August 2017
As independent journalist and defending free speech and alternative media, I may not agree with the general consent of public and mainstream reviews. While the acting is superb and should be rightly acclaimed, with a special mention for Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Alexander, the editing and montage is awful, with quite an incongruity mixing of filming from the period. Sound is not convincing as it is supposed to be, firearms shooting night and day, and shouting. The bombing of the camp is not accurate, the allies never agreed to do it even knowing the very truth quite early. And the army liberating the camp is shown to us as English soldiers, while it was the Red Army and Russian soldiers doing just that. How could such an huge historical mistake - not to mention other mistakes - could portray for us other supposed true events in this film ? Script and editing merit a very low note.
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Best film never released
kazjon6824 November 2006
This is probably the best film of its type I have seen, I have watched the film twice and can not understand why it has not been released on general release, DVD or video. I understand it was a TV movie but it is a classic film and I would like to purchase the film so that others can watch with me. I have spoken to countless people about this film and everyone remembers the film. It is a sad, emotion filled film. The end scene brought tears to the eyes and I am surprised that it is not scheduled for viewing more than it is. I commend this film to all, in the hope that someday it may be released for sale to the general public.
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I saw the movie last night and it is fantastic
sfd-542 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
When I saw this movie in 1980 I thought it was good. I remember the JDL wanting it banned because it had Vanessa Reedgraves in the title role and she had recently been photographed with the PLO holding up an AK47. However, her part in this movie was flawless. She and several of the supporting actors must have starved themselves to look so skinny and forlorn. There is one scene that is especially riveting. It occurs at night when one of the starving prisoners comes to Vanessa to express her love for another prisoner. To me it represented the displacement of impending extermination with a feeling of passion for another person. This is the same irrational runaway of internal emotions that impels someone to leave his wife and family and run off with another person, male or female. This feeling has been described as uncontrollable, ie. beyond conscious control.

Also, we have one very beautiful Nazi Guard. She is shown shooting someone in cold blood, but she also expresses deep human concern for the members of the orchestra and for children.

Joseph Mengaler is also portrayed in this movie. He is responsible for keeping the prisoners alive although we know from history that he was brutal in his experimentation on prisoners. The part is played by the actor who was the father in the TV series Alf. Toward the end one of the guards tells the fleeing prisoners that if they go left they will fall into British hands but if they go right they will fall into Russian Hands. Also, we are shown the guards being rounded up and taken out in trucks. If the Russians had taken over the camp this would not have happened as the Russians shot all the guards and made prisoners watch. This was especially hard on prisoners who had been befriended by guards.
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Unforgettable TV movie
elsade15 February 2006
Never will I forget this made-for-TV movie. It should be professionally transferred to DVD medium! With sub-titles in various languages so that more people worldwide can enjoy it.

The acting was fantastic. The impact of the script was unusual for any movie, most of all for a made-for-TV one. I have never forgotten any of the scenes or the characters --- and I am NOT a movie fan! Nor am I Jewish, and I am too young to relate to WWII events. After reading that Redgrave was anti-semitic, I am even more impressed with her acting. It was flawless, as was the acting of every supporting character, including those playing the Germans.
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Available on Netflix
ashleyhill-8180116 September 2018
The movie is fantastic. Superb acting. Redgrave may not resemble the real Fania, or sing as well as some others up for the part- but this role requires the acting chops few possess. Read the other reviews. I am posting this because the movie is finally available to see on Netflix.
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Shocking... but it happened
Emerenciano24 June 2018
I don't know how many Holocaust films I have seen in my life, but I know they are still shocking. Shocking to know it all happened! Shocking to know there are still so many people who don't take it as a real fact.

Anyway, focusing on the film now. "Playing for Time", as many others movies, hits us. And not only because of the strong plot, but because of the performance of the cast. And what a cast! I confess I did not know most of the actors, but their talent is undeniable. But - there's no other way to put it - no one works in "Playing for Time" better than Vanessa Redgrave here. She's great!

When I went to IMDb to find out more about the film I saw it was made for TV. I imagine how strong would it be if Daniel Mann and Joseph Sargent had done this for the movie theatres.
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Multiple perspectives
pluisa14 June 2018
The script pointedly shows many different perspectives of the victims of the German Nazi's holocaust: Communists, Zionists, homosexuals, artists, Germans, Poles, others - and how they perceive what is happening to them. Also the horror for these individuals to survive day after day while others are killed around them. And the struggle to retain a sense of being human. Wonderfully written. Hard to watch for sure. A must-see.
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Redgrave is a wonder to behold
bettycjung9 December 2017
12/7/17. An excellent look at the Holocaust through the lives and eyes of the Jewish women who were spared because they were willing to entertain the Nazis with their musical talent as part of the Women's Orchestra in Auschwitz. From great pain comes great music, but, oh, under such horrible circumstances! While this movie was based on a play by Arthur Miller, which based his work on the memoirs of the surviving members of this group, the women portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave was not happy with Redgrave's casting (although she went on to win awards for the portrayal) and wanted Liza Minnelli to play her. The acting was superb. Definitely worth watching, especially if you love music.
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Vanessa's Best
AlanSKaufman6 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Playing for Time is based on a true story in Auschwitz. Paradoxically we see no gas chambers because the central character portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave survives by performing in a camp orchestra for the benefit of the camp bosses.

Instead we get an in depth portrayal of "life" in the death camp through the remarkable portrayal of the lead actress. I have never seen a role where Vanessa is not thoroughly convincing in her performance. I must comment on the frequent criticism that in her personal life she holds controversial views. I find this totally irrelevant. In their professional roles, actors are precisely that and we marvel how they can realistically display unimaginable features. Vanessa is the finest of actors and that alone is what must matter.

I recall a holocaust film that focused on naked women being herded into a gas chamber. Ratings determined that many viewers were "turned on" by such a scene. How contemptible! In this film you will not be "turned on" by anything, rather you will feel the horrors of the experience.

One of the creepiest characters is Dr. Mengele. At times almost gently polite, we know that he was one of the most evil camp physicians. As some bosses were busy partying, it was the physicians who selected the victims for immediate death or for merciless medical experimentation. Most doctors escaped punishment after the camp was liberated.

This excellent movie gives you a real taste of the death camp. Even the train ride to the facility is graphic in detail. A powerful film, with a powerful actress who will transport you there and guard you from personal harm.
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Playing for Time
petenvee1 July 2014
It is certainly a powerful film, but marred mostly but poor,confusing continuity. The casting of Redgrave in lead role, is controversial, but her acting is superb.A lot of the story was more of a formulaic message rather than the full on impact of the Pianist or Schindler's List.

I came away feeling let down, uninvolved and relatively untouched by the acting AND the story, in spite of the potential power of content. I have visited Auschwitz and have been of the impression that it was the Russians that liberated the camp. A confusing and muddled film that should have hit the mark, but failed in my mind. Perhaps Millar and the producers should have had more time for honing the film, and not spent so much energy on making a hit in their own minds.
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only two ways to rate the cosmos; meaningless or not
mayo233821 May 2003
Most of us would readily recognize that a meaningless cosmos is indistinguishable from an evil cosmos. The rare and exquisite beauty of the melodious chorus in Playing For Time did give some transient pause to those whose unnerring logic must undoubtedly cast our ballot to the unquestioned verdict that t'is meaningless and of course , evil. The Nazi death-dealers were ,however , momentarily paused. Shall we esteem and cherish this brief pause? or accede to the relentless tide of death, evil ,and meaninglessness ? Does anyone know the wagering line on next NETS-PISTONS game at Meadowlands?
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Unmasking the hate of intolerance
magicsinglez12 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
'Playing for Time' starring Vanessa Redgrave first aired in 1980 and is based on a true story. A true story teaching the lessons of intolerance and the horrors of the Holocaust. In much the way Sharazod (the mythical wife of a King) would save her own life each night by telling her husband a story but never finishing the tale; in 'Playing for Time' the inmates of a death camp play music for the amusement of the guards thereby escaping extermination. But this is no myth it's a very real means of survival for desperate inmates.

'Playing for Time' is a great movie but gets a little boring. I found myself playing a video game instead of paying close attention to the movie.
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