Throwback Thursday-The Pianist (2002)

Sometimes, in the heat of the war, the one thing that keeps us alive is music.

Władysław Szpilman was one of the most respected pianists in Europe in the years leading up to World War II. He was also Jewish.

His story of survival in the face overwhelming atrocities is explored in the 2002 award-winning film, The Pianist. Adrien Brody plays the title character. The movie starts with Władysław Szpilman forced into The Warsaw Ghetto with his family and thousands of other Jews. As the noose begins to tighten around the residents of the ghetto, he knows that his music maybe the only thing keeping him alive.

The Pianist stands out as a Holocaust film because of the music. The music reminds both the main character and the audience that even in the face of unmistakable evil and tragedy, if we can find one thing to remind us of our humanity, then there is hope. The music is the sliver of hope and light in the face of the darkness that is World War II and The Holocaust.

I absolutely recommend it.


Throwback Thursday-Escape From Sobibor (1987)

Sometimes, when circumstances seem impossible, all you need a little hope and courage.

In the 1987 television movie, Escape From Sobibor, the Jewish prisoners have not been gassed and their bodies burnt to ashes. But that does not mean that their suffering is less than their coreligionists in other Nazi concentration camps.  Based on the true story, on October 14th, 1943, the prisoners led by Leon Feldhendler (Alan Arkin) and Alexander “Sasha” Pechersky (Rutger Hauer) lead a revolt against the guards. They know that not one prisoner must not be left behind. Those that stay at the camp are sure to be tortured and murdered.

There is also the question of how to deal with their captors. It would be easy to stoop to their level, but how much freedom could they relish knowing that had killed another human being?

For me, this movie is a powerful one. Not just because it is a Holocaust film, but it deals with questions that have never been black and white.  This film is a reminder of not only the choices we make, but the questions that never have a simple answer.

I recommend it.


Flashback Friday-Life Is Beautiful (1997)

Anyone who has ever made or seen a Holocaust film knows that the subject is not an easy one, for both the film makers and audience.

In 1997, a new twist was put on the genre with Life Is Beautiful.

Guido (Robert Benigni) falls in love with Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a woman outside of his station and his religion. Dora and Guido marry and live what appears to be a happily ever after. The product of their marriage is their son, Joshua (Giorgio Cantarini). All is perfect until the Nazis invade Italy. Guido, Dora and Joshua are deported to the concentration camps with the rest of the Jews in their town. Separated from Dora, Guido keeps his son alive and safe (as safe as a Jewish child can be in a Nazi concentration camp) by playing a game. The prize to be won is a tank. Will Guido and his family survive or will his game and his son be discovered?

At the time of the film’s release, many historians and survivors criticized the film, mostly for being historically inaccurate. While that is true, what shines through for me in this film is a father’s love for his child and the lengths that he will go through to protect his son.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Son Of Saul Movie Review

It’s been 70 years since Auschwitz was liberated.

The death camp has been the subject of many films over the years.

While the mother of all Holocaust films is Schindler’s List (1993), another film has come out recently. While the subject of both films are the same, they are completely different.

The recent release Son Of Saul (2015), focuses on Saul Auslander (Geza Rohrig). Saul is a Sonderkommando. In the death camps, they were responsible for disposing of the bodies of the victims and preparing the belongings that the victims brought with them for dispersion. Among the bodies of the recently killed is the son that Saul never acknowledged during the boy’s brief lifetime. He becomes obsessed with one goal: finding a Rabbi and burying the boy properly.  But as Saul looks for a Rabbi, the Nazis look to destroy the Sonderkommando’s who are secretly planning a rebellion.

While other Holocaust films have not been shy to reveal the horror that is the Holocaust, this film is different. Devoid of music and shot with film with mainly closeup shots of the main character, this film is disturbing. Not that a Holocaust film should be light and funny, but this film is a stark reminder of how dark the world can be and how easy it can be to mistreat our fellow human being based simply on external factors.

I absolutely recommend this film. If you see one film over the next few weekends, see Son Of Saul. It will be a worthwhile viewing.


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