The true story of Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jew chosen by Josef Mengele to be the head pathologist at Auschwitz. Nyiszli was one of Auschwitz's Sonderkommandos - Special Squads of Jewish prisoners placed by the Nazis in the excruciating moral dilemma of helping to exterminate fellow Jews in exchange for a few more months of life. Together, the Sonderkommandos struggled to organize the only armed revolt that would ever take place at Auschwitz. As the rebellion is about to commence, a group from the unit discovers a 14-year-old girl who has miraculously survived a gassing. A catalyst for their desperate attempt at personal redemption, the men become obsessed with saving this one child, even if doing so endangers the uprising which could save thousands. To what terrible lengths are we willing to go to save our own lives, and what in turn would we sacrifice to save the lives of others?Written by
Sujit R. Varma
The film's title is inspired by the second chapter of the essay collection "The Drowned and the Saved" by Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, first published in 1986. The second chapter is called "The Gray" (spelling correct) and deals in an analytical way with the subject of the "Sonderkommandos". Since Levi was never part of a "Sonderkommando" in Auschwitz, and never met one, his knowledge was mostly based on the critical description of Miklos Nyiszli in "Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account". That book is the main historical source of The Grey Zone (2001), too. See more »
When a column of victims is being escorted into the house with the hidden gas chamber, a camp orchestra is playing music. The musicians of this orchestra are presented as part of the Sonderkommando. There are also very few SS soldiers shown and no machine guns visible, that would pressure the victims into compliance. This is all incorrect according to witness testimony and historians. First of all, the existing orchestra at Auschwitz was never used in the crematoria. It also didn't have any members from the Sonderkommando - who were mostly strong young men without musical skills anyway - because the Sonderkommando was not allowed to mix with other prisoners at Auschwitz and isolated from them. There never was a special orchestra only for Sonderkommando members like shown in the film. By focusing on this fictitious 'Sonderkommando orchestra' playing music to calm and deceive the victims, instead of showing the existing forces of the SS soldiers and the weapons that they could use anytime to kill, this sequence suggests a false sense of 'compliance' on the side of the victims and on the side of the Sonderkommando prisoners. It was probably written for dramatic effect to enhance the absurdity and create 'irony', but ultimately it's disrespectful to the historical facts and misrepresents the hopeless situation of the victims. See more »
SS-Oberscharfuhrer Eric Muhsfeldt:
I never fully despised the Jews until I experienced how easily they could be persuaded to do the work here. To do it so well. And to their own people! They'll be dead by week's end, every soul. And we'll replace them with others no different. Do you know how easy that will be?
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Tim Blake Nelson takes his stage play--an adaptation of a book by Miklos Nyiszki--to the big screen,and what a story it is!
An unthinkable,unconscionable deal has been worked out between a certain group of Nazi death camp inmates and their captors: in order to avoid the ovens(in all likelihood,only temporarily),these inmates would use their talents(among them,musical) to placate and ease along the funneling of other Jews and "undesirables" into the death chambers. A strong cast and an even stronger screenplay/script is augmented by very intelligent cinematography. Particularly good turns by David Arquette,Steve Buscemi,Daniel Benzali and Mira Sorvino as the inmates,all desperate,all convinced of what they have to do to survive and in Arquette's character's case,not even certain if it is even worth it.
It would be tempting to slam "Schindler's List" after seeing this,but I won't. SL is meant as an epic,a tribute,a story of the upside of surviving through the most dense of human tragedy,whereas GZ is a decidedly darker exploration of what happens to people in the same situation but are pushed into much less noble,much more selfish and desperate devices. Both are strong examples of the genre,but where GZ triumphs is that that it explores the most damning actions through the consciences of people faced with decisions that nobody should have to make. It is an unflinching portrait of a dark chapter in human history,rife with detail and completely lacking of lecturing. THis film is for anyone who wants to see an unvarnished and stark portrayal of the human condition brought to its lowest denominator. A must-see for college classrooms and Holocaust museums anywhere!
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