7 May 2005 | Saul Marks
An intricately woven masterpiece
This adaptation of Danielle Steel's novel is something that has stayed imprinted on my memory for some time.
So many war films cast the Germans as the "baddies" but, here, the devastation wrought to individual lives by World War II leaves us no option but to feel pity for the main characters involved, regardless of which side they represent. Once we leave behind the horrors of war-torn Berlin, we are taken on an emotional journey as three individuals strive to find each other across the world in the ensuing administrational chaos. We cannot help but will them to succeed; we cry with them, we smile with them.
The detail within this story is extraordinary. Almost every line of script is vital to the plot, as it twists and turns, with fate proving as cruel as it is kind. Every word is entirely believable, realistic, heartfelt. We follow the characters in their affluence, their desperation, their happiness and their grief. Having never read the novel, I do not know quite who to praise, whether it be the original story or the adaptation, but the filmmakers have ensured every fine detail is correct. There are no errors in the chronology (save one), even down to dates on gravestones. Each connection from one location to another is plausible and well-worked. The Jewish scenes are faultless, including the passages in Hebrew. The traits within each character never waver, and are even given depth and history, no more so than Giselle's selfishness and her father's mercenary ways. The interplay between the characters is perfect as well, such as between Sam and Ruth. We sympathise with both sides of their debate as they try to do the best for their son. The strong female themes that run stronger and stronger through the film are entirely realistic, with so many different women, each with strengths and flaws, crossing our characters' paths.
For me, this film appeals on so many different levels. As someone fascinated by World War II history, is shows a stark reality often forgotten for those of us on the winning side. As a genealogist, the detective work of finding individuals is thrilling. As a Jew, Ariana's involvement with a Jewish family is the right mix of touching and nervy. As a hopeless romantic, and one who loves chick-flicks, this is a must, and I cry every time!