Holocaust Horrors Seen Through a Boy’s Eyes

November 14, 2008

The realities of the Nazi nightmare are quickly spreading through Budapest, but Hungarians seem to not yet understand the horrific depths of Adolf Hitler’s “final solution” – least of all 14-year-old György Köves.

György, protagonist of the film “Fateless” (“Sorstalanság,” or “Campos de Esperanza” in Spanish), has just seen his father sent to work in a labor camp somewhere far away. When György, too, is shoved into a train to Auschwitz – then to Buchenwald, then Zeits – he quickly learns what this kind of suffering camp is all about.

Director Lajos Koltai’s 2005 film, based on Nobel Prize-winner Imre Kertész’s semi-autobiographical novel, falls somewhere between the tear-jerking darkness of “Schindler’s List” and the almost unbearable lightness of “Life Is Beautiful.” But make no mistake: “Fateless” will drain you as Holocaust movies do.

A big-budget production for Hungary, “Fateless” almost reaches those other films’ greatness; Koltai treats the dark subject matter artfully without tugging too hard at the tear ducts. One of the film’s most poetic scenes seems choreographed like a modern dance piece: Lineups of stick-thin prisoners, forced to stand still for hours, sway dramatically from fatigue like a wheat field in the breeze. Some of them repeat the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer for the dead, over and over.

Most descriptions of the movie say György, played by Marcell Nagy, comes of age in the concentration camps, seeing terror through young eyes that become a man’s. However, as the world crumbles and his body emaciates, this boy’s eyes and bones seem to become ancient and, despite a crippling leg injury, hauntingly numb.

“Fateless” is now playing in Costa Rican theaters in Hungarian with Spanish subtitles.

 

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