Playing for Time (1980 TV Movie)
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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.
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!!
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: http://www.ideajournal.com/articles.php?id=15
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.
"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")
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'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.