A Harrowing Holocaust
Release Date: January 06, 2006
Genre: Historical Drama
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 140 minutes
Director: Lajos Koltai
Producer: Andras Hamori
Writer: Imre Kertész
Address Comments To:Jeff Sackman
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The movie opens with the Adolf Hitler's National Socialists sending 14-year-old Gyuri's father being sent to a labor camp toward the end of World War II. Gyuri is a typical teenager who seems strangely unaffected by his father's departure. He's also unaffected by the discussion of his relatives and neighbors, who seem to incessantly talk about the Jews and their fate and persecution.
Persecution hits closer to home, however, when Hungarian officials suddenly pick up Gyuri, and the Germans send him to the labor camps. On the way to the camps, Gyuri barely escapes extermination at Auschwitz. The rest of the movie details Gyuri's harrowing experiences in the labor camps. The movie ends with Gyuri returning to Budapest to pick up the pieces of his life.
This boy's experiences in the camp are truly harrowing. A man takes him under his wing and tries to teach Gyuri how to survive. Each day becomes a struggle between the grueling physical demands of Hitler's stormtroopers and the long wait for meager portions of soup and bread. Gyuri actually looks forward to the mealtimes, and it is the simple pleasures of that starvation diet which keep him going. People like to talk about how bad things were in the camp, Gyuri explains in narration after the war, but he likes to think about the intense pleasure he felt whenever the National Socialists gave him some food.
In light of this, the movie's title, FATELESS, may suggest that the creators behind this story want Jews to transcend the persecutions they endure and take control of their own lives. Jews are not fated to become eternal victims of life, the story seems to be saying, but creators of life. Thus, at the end of the movie, Gyuri says he now wants to focus on his plans for the future, including what vocation he wants to try. Even so, his experiences in the camps will always be part of his transformation from a boy into a man.
Gyuri's coldly philosophical reaction to his harrowing personal experience may distance many viewers, including Holocaust survivors, from his character. Viewers may also be disturbed that Gyuri doesn't really understand what it means to be Jewish, including its religious aspects. The filmmakers get around these problems (especially during the scenes in the camps) by focusing intensely on the boy's face, and the faces of his fellow sufferers. In fact, the frequent close ups of these faces makes FATELESS seem like a Jewish passion play. As such, the movie often reminded MOVIEGUIDE® of the classic silent French movie, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, by Carl Theodor Dreyer. That's not bad company to be in for a filmmaker, despite the possibility that some viewers may be perplexed by Gyuri's unemotional reaction to the circumstances surrounding his incarceration and suffering, not to mention his apparent apathy about what it means to be a Jew.
Marcell Nagy is absolutely brilliant as Gyuri, especially in the scenes of the suffering he goes in the camps. His performance is one of the greatest performances ever given by an adolescent. FATELESS looks as if it was as grueling to film as well as to live. Of course, that is not really true. After all, at the end of the day, the actors in this movie probably appreciated the fact that, unlike so many people in the German concentration camps, they eventually would be going home.
The suffering in FATELESS is intense at times, but, while the violence is sudden and brutal, it is not extremely bloody or very graphic or excessive. There is also not a lot of on-screen violence, considering the topic. FATELESS also contains some strong foul language and images of nude male corpses. Because of these things and the protagonist's strange view of the Holocaust, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
FATELESS is a harrowing, poignant movie about the Holocaust in Hungary. Marcell Nagy is absolutely brilliant as Gyuri, especially in the scenes of suffering he undergoes in the camps. The suffering in FATELESS is intense at times, but, while the violence is sudden and brutal, it is not extremely bloody or very graphic or excessive. FATELESS also contains a limited amount of strong foul language.