The Nazis have invaded Hungary and war is raging in the main cities. To avoid it, a woman leaves her thirteen-year-old twin boys at their grandmother's place in the countryside. The children don't know their grandmother, a dirty, miserly, and mean old woman who barely allows them inside the house. Left to their own devices, the two children learn to cope with hunger, the cold, and the everyday cruelty in a devastated country. To protect themselves, the twins reject all moral codes and values and instead take their lessons from the evil around them in order to try to survive. The siblings studiously note, as objectively as possible, their discoveries and their burgeoning knowledge in a notebook.Written by
Official submission of Hungary for the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 86th Academy Awards in 2014. The film made the shortlist of the last 9 films, but was not nominated. See more »
Only real war movie I've ever seen
jkbonner1 has written an excellent and in-depth review of the movie, all I would like to add is that this is the first and only movie that I have ever seen that I think succeeds in realistically portraying the devastating human aspects of WWII on a personal level without resorting to sentimentalism or nostalgia. Although gruesome with plenty of disturbing scenes, it is not grotesque. For me the only movie that comes close would be Apocalypse Now - which is, of course, a very different movie but I think similar in that both give a glimpse of the inhumanity and insanity of war. I also really admired about the movie that every key character undergoes a complete transformation - it presents us with an initial situation where it seems obvious who is in the right and who is "evil", and succeeds in turning everything upside down by the end of the movie, including our own definitions of right and wrong and good and evil. The movie does of course have some inconsistencies, some scenes appear highly unlikely and the boys seem to meet with every misfortune imaginable. But I think such criticism is beside the point. Through the eyes of the boys we are shown events that did happen over and over again to thousands of people. And in the end it is up to us to consider what is "good", whether we have a right to judge any of the characters in the movie, and given such circumstances how much of our own humanity and values could any of use have maintained? BTW I signed up to IMDb just to be able to share these thoughts with you about this movie :-) and I "look forward to" one day reading the book the movie is based upon (Agota Kristof: Le grand cahier).
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