Monday, 30 July 2007

"Ghost World: Quietly audacious, Hungarian cinematographer's debut is the most existential of Holocaust films"

"Adapted from Nobel laureate Imre Kertész's autobiographical novel of an Auschwitz boyhood, the Hungarian film Fateless has a remarkable absence of sentimentality. The movie is obviously artistic, but there are no cheap or superfluous effects. It's almost mystically translucent.

"Fateless is Lajos Koltai's first film as a director, but he has a long and distinguished career as a cinematographer, including 14 films shot for István Szabó. One would expect Fateless to have a look, and it does, albeit less pictorial than impressionistic. Koltai seems to have chosen his actors largely for their faces, including the sensitive moptop Marcell Nagy, who plays the 14-year-old protagonist Gyuri. Images dominate the narrative. The film's structure is elliptical, unfolding in a series of vignettes, beginning amid the falling leaves and the shabby, cluttered flats of a wanly enchanted Budapest."

"Ghost World:Quietly audacious, Hungarian cinematographer's debut is the most existential of Holocaust films"

J. Hoberman

"The subject of the Holocaust has been treated on film from so many varied approaches that one would think it impossible to make a new impression. In one of the seminal books on the subject, Indelible Shadows, author Annette Insdorf estimates that she has seen over 200 films on the Holocaust (which Jewish scholars prefer to call Shoah). In a more recent book, scholar Lawrence Baron lists over 800 titles in his 'Holocaust Movie Database, 1945-1999.' The cinematic approach to one of the 20th century’s most harrowing events includes comedy (The Great Dictator, Seven Beauties, Life is Beautiful, Train of Life), documentary (Night and Fog, Shoah, Image Before my Eyes), fiction [many based on real events or people] (The Night Porter, The Damned, The Pianist, The Music Box, Schindler’s List, Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg, Europa, Europa, Bent, Sunshine), and even exploitation (Love Camp 7, Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, Salon Kitty, The Gestapo’s Last Orgy).
Fateless proves that even a subject as well worn as the Holocaust can inspire artists to scale new heights. With a subject that is already loaded with emotional power, it would be all too easy to rely on manipulative plot machinations to move spectators. Insdorf spends the first few chapters of her book debating what the proper film language is for the depiction of the Holocaust. One of the points that comes out of these chapters is that a film striving for an authentic, valuable contribution to the Holocaust legacy would do best not to rely on conventional Hollywood style realism and melodramatic conventions, preferring 'the tense styles and dialectical montage of European films' [p. xv]. First time director Lajos Koltai, a cinematographer by trade, steers far of any such dramatic crutches by relying almost exclusively on the power of visual imagery (editing, cinematography), aided by a beautiful, minimalist score by longtime genius composer Ennio Morricone (with wonderful vocal chants by Lisa Gerrard), to illicit its emotional power."

"Journey into the Soul"
Donato Totaro

"There have been so many cinematic presentations of the Holocaust that, with the event itself receding beyond the reach of living memory, it's in danger of becoming historical porn, an exotic atrocity we consume over and over again for increasingly dubious reasons. Lajos Koltai's magisterial, understated Fateless avoids that trap; this is a grand claim to make, but I think it's one of the greatest of all Holocaust films. In focusing on the destiny of one young Hungarian boy, a survivor of the camps who never seems to understand quite how much he has lost at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Fateless conveys on a visceral, intimate level what it was like to live in those terrible places."

"Fateless: My summer vacation in Buchenwald"
Andrew O'Hehir

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