Holocaust films, continued

My film review of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has just been published in the Australian Jewish News.  Here in Australia, the film appears to be receiving almost universally positive, glowing and even ecstatic reviews.  Wow.

As I write in my review, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas continues an unusual – and in this case insidious – trend for films about the Holocaust to be about Germans and their feelings about the Holocaust, and not about the Jews.  Defiance, which just opened in Australia this week (and which I will comment on soon), is an obvious exception.  But think about The Reader – from the Bernhard Shlink novel – which is really about German guilt.  It’s a good film, or mostly a good one.  Although its portrayals of its Jewish characters are worrisome – how is it that the final scene takes place in the very classy New York City apartment of a Holocaust survivor, where the emotionally tortured character of Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) pleads for … what? from the Jewish survivor who is living a life of luxury.  Strange message here.  Read my review of The Reader, which appeared in the March 9, 2009 edition of the Australian Jewish News.

Or Valkyrie – (read my review here) which also opened recently:  again the German perspective.  There’s nothing wrong with the German perspective by the way, but The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas takes it way too far.  The only other writer who I think actually “gets it” is David Sterritt (former film critic of The Christian Science Monitor), who – in his Tikkun article in the May/June 2009 issue – criticised that film thus:

Nor did it occur to them, apparently, that the emotion-drenched finale would come across as a disgraceful exercise in misplaced sentimentality – that soliciting tears for a Nazi parent’s loss is hardly the best way to end a film about Nazi genocide.  The mind reels.

It does indeed.


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