19 December 2005 | myfavoriteartform
Well made, well acted, well told.
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.