"A Harrowing Holocaust"
What You Need To Know:
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.
(H, BB, RH, LL, VV, D, M) Light humanist, existential worldview of the Holocaust, with strong moral elements about helping others in need during intense persecution and a few references to Jewish ethical monotheism, including a Hebrew prayer and a small synagogue service in a concentration camp, but teenage Jewish protagonist doesn't really understand or connect what that culture is all about and he refuses to accept the persecution which that culture historically has suffered or tie his personal fate into it, plus some apparent revisionist history when boy tells people he never really saw mass executions in gas chambers during Holocaust in World War II, so he can't comment on it; about 11 or 12 obscenities (including three "f" words) and brief vomiting; strong violence includes images of nude male corpses during Holocaust scenes, guards slap prisoners a few times causing some blood, boy falls on railroad track and badly hurts his knee, infected and swollen knee shown, guard roughly places heavy sacks on teenage boy terribly weakened by starvation diet and hard labor, people faint from long exposure to the elements, and fascist guards herd people like cattle; no sex, but one kiss between teenagers and prisoner makes a derogatory comment about one guard's apparent or alleged homosexuality; no sexual nudity but upper male nudity and scenes of full male nudity where dead and near-dead Holocaust victims are shown; no alcohol; smoking; and, anti-Semitism rebuked, but perhaps not as forcefully as other Holocaust movies do, stealing food, forced labor, a couple references to exterminations of Jews, and fascist totalitarianism rebuked.
FATELESS is a harrowing, but ultimately distanced, look at the effects of the Holocaust on a young Jewish teenager in Budapest, Hungary.
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.