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Time Out says
Tue May 2 2006Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertész’s screen adaptation of his semi-autobiographical novel is a major addition to the cinema of the Holocaust. Since Hungary was nominally a German ally, it wasn’t until 1944 that deportations began to affect Budapest’s largely assimilated Jewish population, which in part explains 14-year-old Gyuri Köves’ initial disbelief as he’s packed into a train for Auschwitz. He’s soon forced to adjust his perspective, given the daily round of endurance that becomes his lot, yet amid the suffering, there’s also comradeship allowing him to retain a precarious grip on his humanity.
Measured, unsentimental, and of a sustained intensity appropriate to but never exploitative of the situation, Lajos Koltai’s directorial début explores the horrifying ramifications of perseverance in the face of incomprehensible horror. Here wide-eyed Marcell Nagy’s unbelievably committed central performance potently embodies the struggle to maintain an individual identity beyond mere victimhood. Although the film’s imposing colour-drained images and Ennio Morricone’s powerful score are striking indeed, this emphasis on essential selfhood marks it out from, say, ‘Schindler’s List’. Relatively few films touching on the Holocaust are worthy of their subject; this one is.
Author: Trevor Johnston
Fri May 5 2006