I remember a time when facts were important and meant something. In my chemistry class when we would conduct an experiment, each of the students had to create a particular reaction then have a fellow student repeat the same steps to see if they get the same results. My experiment was to create a blue clear liquid in my test tube. Mixing chemicals in a precise order and amounts when the final chemical was added the liquid in my test tube turned a beautiful Caribbean blue color. Next my lab partner had to reproduce my steps to see if he would get the same results. It turned out he did not; the liquid in his test tube turned into a cloudy, swamp brown color with a nasty odor. So to substantiate my results a 3rd student was brought in to repeat my experiment. They were successful as they created the same blue colored liquid. Pouring over our notes we discovered my lab partner mistook one measurement which completely altered the chemical reaction to create the color blue. This is how we learned about facts and fact checking. From my school years I learned studies and facts would yield accurate results. It seems as if facts do not carry the same weight of importance as they once did. This is my own opinion but I feel if facts lose their importance then conversations, accusations, claims and other such things turn into one big game of that kid’s game, “Telephone.” It is a game where one person whispers a statement into the ear of the person sitting next to them; who in turn, whispers the statement to the next and so on and so on, until the last person sitting in the circle repeats what they were told to the very first person who issued the statement. More than likely the statement was altered as it got passed from one person to the next. I learned from this dramatic film based on a true story that there were people back then who also did not believe in facts. HISTORIAN Deborah Lipstadt, played by Rachel Weisz (The Light Between Oceans, The Lobster), had to fly to London to prove in court that the Holocaust did indeed happen after she was sued for libel. In London’s judicial system the burden of proof is placed on the accused. This biographical film had outstanding acting provided not only by Rachel but also Tom Wilkinson (Snowden, Belle) as Richard Rampton, Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Enchanted) as David Irving and Andrew Scott (Spectre, Saving Private Ryan) as Anthony Julius. Based on Deborah’s book, History on Trial: My Day in Court, I found this film to be a taut courtroom drama. It was due to this cast that my interest stayed with the story because there were several scenes that lagged compared to others. I believe this was due to the script for the most part, though the directing had a hand in causing this slowness. Ultimately this did not weigh me down because I was very much into the story which interestingly one could draw parallels between it and the environment we currently live in.
The person asked me what movies I had seen the past weekend. I started going down the list of films and when I came to this movie they stopped me and asked, “How was it?” I made a few quick comments, not wanting to give too much away about the film. They looked at me and told me they believed it happened. I asked them what happened and they said the Holocaust. Their comment tripped up my brain momentarily; what did they mean they believed it happened, like there was any doubt? I did not respond to the comment because, to tell you the truth, I did not want to hear the answer. Were they a non-believer at some point or did their family and friends convince them the Holocaust never happened; I just did not want to get into a discussion about it with this person. However our brief conversation stayed with me for the day. I felt their comment could have come from a disrespectful, ignorant or hateful type of place. For someone to say the Holocaust never occurred would be a slap in the face to all of those who had suffered and died. I sat throughout the day wondering if this person ever met someone who had a relative or friend perish in the concentration camps or who had their forearm tattoed with a number, showing those now they survived the camps. If this person had seen the movie I could then assume their comment was meant for what they had seen because it was so intimate and personal. SAUL Auslander, played by relative newcomer Geza Rohrig, was forced to be part of a group of men who had to remove the dead bodies from the concentration camp’s gas chamber. When a boy was discovered still breathing among the dead, Saul morally could not ignore the boy’s breaths though it could get him killed. This Oscar nominated historic drama was utterly powerful on the movie screen. The director, by filming behind Saul’s head, turned this story into an intimate experience for the viewers. I felt as if I was part of Saul’s group, sharing all the horrors and terrors the men were experiencing at the time. This film festival winner may not be easy for some viewers who have not been exposed previously to Holocaust stories. I, myself, felt the director had taken this into consideration because most of the challenging scenes were set in the background just out of focus. This tactic allowed the viewer to remain with Saul and see exactly what was happening but maybe not at full force. One other thing I want to mention about the way this story was filmed. With such close shots there was a frenetic pace at times that added intensity to the scenes. It does not matter whether Saul was based on an actual individual because this film was just as real as the actual Holocaust. Hungarian and German was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars
I would think a majority of us at one time or another avoid revealing our true identity to someone or pretend to be somebody else. Before she goes back home a friend of mine has to alter her appearance to avoid standing out while she travels through her native country. She has to take any colored highlights out of her hair, wear no jewelry and dress in tattered old blue jeans. All of this has to be done to avoid any suspicious characters who may use her for profit. A few winters back I wore a city policeman’s jacket that I had found at a surplus store. Besides finding it fun to wear it actually could keep me warm. It did not occur to me at first but a couple of times while walking up to a checkout line, the person in front of me would let me go ahead. I had assumed it was because I only had a few items, but then I realized the people must be reacting to my policeman’s jacket. When I work out at a different health club, I avoid telling the instructor I teach also; I do not want to be judged by a different standard. The examples I have mentioned are just a speck of sand on the beach of reasons one would use to cover their identity; but, the reason for it in this historical drama was one of the most noble I have seen. Returning back home Hungarian Elek Cohen, played by Jonas Armstrong (Book of Blood, Robin Hood-TV), discovered his family was taken away by members of the Arrow Cross party who were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. With Germany tightening its fist around Hungary during WWII, Elek thought the only way he could safely look for his family was to impersonate a Nazi SS officer. He would find more than he imagined during his search. Inspired by a true story this film festival winning movie had an unbelievable story to tell. I could not help but compare Elek Cohen to Oskar Schindler from the film Schindler’s List; however, the 2 movies were drastically different. This action drama was poorly made with uninspired writing and acting. Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3, Hugo) as Regent Horthy was completely wasted in this film. I did not find any acting worth noting for this review. Except for the obvious scenes that told you this was a story about the Holocaust, it seemed to me the movie was trying to keep it a secret.
1 3/4 stars
I do not need to read a book to know how strong women can be. Televised wildlife programs showing fiercely protective mothers with their offspring are not needed since I was raised among powerful women. My maternal grandmother’s life was devoted exclusively to her children. She had neither the need for friendships nor any outside interests (except for movies); her mission was to take care of her children: my mother and her siblings. There never was a time where my grandmother did not have freshly baked or cooked food in her house. The only traveling she did was from her house to one of her children’s homes. This woman never uttered a bad word; her strongest showing of displeasure was uttering the word “feh.” In turn, each of her daughters was strong in their own way. When my leg was caught in the back door of the local bus; my mother held me up as she ran alongside the bus, screaming and pounding on the door until it stopped. When my aunt’s two youngest children each had a run in with a glass door, my aunt did not wait for an ambulance. She wrapped their bleeding limbs as she put them into her car and sped away to the hospital, where my cousins were stitched up without loss of limb. I was not surprised by these women and I was not surprised with matriarch Ester Stermer’s strength in this incredible documentary. However, I was amazed on what she did for her family. When explorer Chris Nicola was investigating a massive array of caves at the Polish/Russian border, he discovered signs of human habitation. Curious, he began to piece together bits of story and information that led him to the survivors from the cave. Mixing archival footage with reenactments narrated by the surviving family members, this story was unimaginable. During Word War II Esther Stermer led her family to these caves; where they lived underground for nearly two years, avoiding capture by Nazi soldiers. I understood why the director used actors to recreate scenes of the family’s journey; yet, I felt they were tamer than the survivors’ real experiences. Not that I consider this a fault, it just gave me a minor feeling of manipulative, dramatic effect. Seeing and hearing the survivors’ memories had more impact. So many people judge strength by how much weight they can lift or how far they can run and it is certainly a valid method. However, the strength of a protective parent really is a special gift.