Fourteen-year-old György's life is torn apart in World War II Hungary, as he is sent to a concentration camp, where he is forced to become a man, and learns to find happiness in the midst of hatred, and what it really means to be Jewish.
An Hungarian youth comes of age at Buchenwald during World War II. György Köves is 14, the son of a merchant who's sent to a forced labor camp. After his father's departure, György gets a job at a brickyard; his bus is stopped and its Jewish occupants sent to camps. There, György find camaraderie, suffering, cruelty, illness, and death. He hears advice on preserving one's dignity and self-esteem. He discovers hatred. If he does survive and returns to Budapest, what will he find? What is natural; what is it to be a Jew? Sepia, black and white, and color alternate to shade the mood.Written by
Kalvin Ter (the subject of the photos in LIFE Magazine shown to György) is a major square in the city centre of Budapest. It was named after the French Protestant Reformer John Calvin. See more »
I didn't go to school today. Well, if only to ask my teacher to let me go home. I gave him father's letter. He asked what the reason was. I told him father had been called up for forced labor.
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Sorstalanság (Fateless) is the memoir of Imre Kertesz's survival of the Shoah. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002, despite being relatively unknown in the West. At the time, many thought that this was "the Primo Levi prize", i.e. making up for the failure of the academy to award the Nobel to Levi, prior to his death in 1987 (the Nobel is never awarded posthumously).
If one has read Levi's Survival at Auschwitz, or Elie Wiesel's Night, many of the details of the story are familiar. But the craft is in the telling, and the director has done an excellent job of bringing a memoir of brutality and survival to life.
A brief synopsis, without spoilers, is that this is the story of a teenaged boy in Budapest in 1944 who is swept up in the Nazi roundup of Hungarian Jewry, and his experience in the concentration camps. (Elie Wiesel was interred in the same roundup.) The story of how Eichmann tried to ransom Hungarian Jewry to the West is interesting background, for those who are intellectually curious. (The allies were afraid to provide materiel and resources to the Nazis, fearing prolongation of the war. A very sad tale).
Making a film of the Holocaust is always a challenge. A director must strive to make the scenes powerful, without being melodramatic. There is also the danger of making another movie over again (eg, Schindler's List; The Reawakening; Europa, Europa). The challenge is to remain faithful to truth, while bringing artistry to the telling of it.
One device which is used to great effect is the use of very brief scenes, perhaps less than one minute, which tell a brief vignette of the daily life in the camps. Some have very little dialog, and they seem random and unconnected, yet together they add to a deeply moving experience.
Many films of the Holocaust are shattering; a few are hopeful. This is neither, but it is a telling of the story that is watchable for most audiences, yet retains the power to affect a viewer. 8 out of 10.
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