Currently browsing the "holocaust" tag.

Review: The Painted Bird

Based on Jerzy Kosiński’s novel, The Painted Bird is a brutal tale of a young nameless boy’s fight to survive on his own during World War II in the wilds of Eastern Europe. He’s beaten and abused wherever he turns, and all he wants to do is find home, though he doesn’t really know where that is. And as he makes his way towards that imagined home, he grows more and more hardened and more like the people he meets, scared and mistrustful of the world at large. Though it takes place during the war, the conflict is distant even if the effects are all around The Boy. While it’s beautifully shot in black and white, it’s also 169 minutes long and essentially a litany of horrors. It’s not a film for the masses.

Review: The Song of Names

I was going to make this more of a full-blown review but then decided not to bother, as the film itself is simply too unsatisfying to recommend. I wanted to like it. The premise seemed quite interesting. The first half was slow but engaging. The performances were solid. The music was hauntingly beautiful. And yet – the last half-hour destroyed whatever goodwill I was feeling toward the film by taking the final act in a direction that was awkward and annoying. Talk about ending on a sour note!

Review: Jojo Rabbit

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be a new way to tell a World War II / Nazi story on film, along comes Jojo Rabbit, to serve as both a reminder of a twisted chapter in our not-so-distant past, and a contemporary cautionary tale. In some ways, there’s more to unpack here than in the controversial Joker, though I suspect way fewer people will see it or ‘get it’. Yes, Jojo Rabbit is a strange flick. But it’s also quite thought-provoking and weirdly entertaining, thanks to the direction of Taika Waititi (who pulls triple duty as screenwriter and actor) and a first-rate cast.

Review: Bye Bye Germany (Es war einmal in Deutschland)

This “based on a true story” movie takes place in 1946, in a displaced persons camp, where those who survived the Nazi death camps are being held until they can get themselves to America. But they need money to do that. Enter David Bermann (Moritz Bleibtreu), a man with a plan. His family had a linen shop before the war, and he recruits a group of salesmen to sell high-end linens to the gullible Germans surrounding them. But while the biz goes well, he’s also being interrogated by an American Army Investigator (Antje Traue) who suspects that he collaborated with the Nazis. The film is by turns funny and sad and sweet and horrifying. And well worth seeing.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

Just in time for Passover… a new Holocaust movie! It’s hard to believe that 80 years after Hitler hatched his maniacal plan to exterminate Jews, there are compelling stories of faith, survival, heroism and sacrifice still making their way to the big screen. The Zookeeper’s Wife isn’t nearly as gripping and powerful as the likes of Diary of Anne Frank or Schindler’s List, but it’s a valiant effort and comes along at a time when the nation – and the world- can use a good reminder to “never forget” what happened, how it happened, and the dangers of a lunatic leader with a cult following. Not to mention the importance of resistance – and persistence. For that very reason alone, it’s worth checking out The Zookeeper’s Wife, based on the nonfiction book by Diane Ackerman. It recounts how a Polish couple who ran the Warsaw Zoo helped save hundreds of Jews during the German invasion, by using the zoo as a way-station for men, women and children to escape from the ill-fated Warsaw Ghetto.

Ida

Ida is one of those extremely beautiful but ultimately depressing films. It is the story of an 18-year-old Polish orphan who was brought up by nuns and is about to take her vows, but first she has to visit an Aunt she knew nothing about, because her Mother Superior insists they meet before deciding on her future. The film is mostly her road trip with this aunt named Wanda to discover who she is and what happened to her family during World War II. It is also her first taste of the outside world, with the sad, alcoholic aunt as her tour guide.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief opens with a voiceover by Death, so you know from the get-go that all is not right with the world, or with the story that’s about to unfold. But it’s not a suffocatingly dark movie. In fact, I tend to describe it as ‘Anne Frank light.’ The central character, Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), is a pretty, spunky, and courageous young girl who’s sent to live with foster parents (Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson) in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. She becomes obsessed with books, even before she learns to read them. Those books – and the power of words in general – become central to Liesel’s relationship with her foster father and others, including a Jew that the family hides during the height of Hitler’s purge.