A Tale of Two Secrets-Part Three – The Horror – how to get it right


The horror is on the inside [©2010 ]

The horror is on the inside – A Film Unfinished                          [©2007 Sophie Dulac Productions ]

The horror, the horror…

The vocabulary is literal.  So, the problem becomes for the movie maker, how do I take this literal vocabulary and find a representative image for something that is so outside the realm of any human experience? ~Sidney L. Lumet, director of The Pawn Broker [17]

In this installment of my three part series we will continue the discussion of the evolution of the media depiction of the Holocaust via a comparison and contrast of two recent European films: Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s 2010 movie Sarah’s Key and Nicolas Klotz’s Heartbeat Detector by bringing to our attention the dramatic use of horror as a quality necessary for the effective portrayal of the Nazi [in particular] crimes against humanity of the Second World War.

Spoiler Warning!  [CCA Tim Davies]

Spoiler Warning! [CCA Tim Davies]

[This is your fair warning, a certain amount of the two movies Sarah’s Key and Heartbeat Detector will be revealed, that you might not want to be revealed if you haven’t watched the movies]

There is a certain quality that any movie that attempts to take on the subject of the Holocaust seriously must poses if it is not to fall flat, to fail in its responsibility to its audience, that is horror.  The horror the film maker is aiming for needs to be a type of psychological horror that the audience can perceive strongly enough to be able to distinguish what was truly unique and unprecedented about the holocaust, that it was something so vast and evil we could ordinarily never have conceived of it, from the more ordinary and human tragedy that we see in other subjects filmmakers turn their lenses to. The holocaust was something so horrific, only horror can shed light on it.  At the same time we also need to be shown that there are patterns and traces of the holocaust permeating history right up to the present day, and back further through history.

Hard to do.

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A Tale of Two Secrets – Imaginary Witnesses: one that got it wrong and one that got it right


The Unknown Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem               [Avishai Teicher, PikiWiki]

Movie reviews are the last refuge of those who cannot write, and at least in this case, those who cannot buckle down to finish writing something he would rather not, long after the original élan for the project has left.  So, this is what you are going to get instead.

So to strike while the iron is still hot enough to strike without significant risk of it becoming overwrought [in the metallurgical sense of the word] here we go.

Actually, we do not do movie reviews as such here at MemeMerchants – we are not that sort of a blog – what we do on occasion is watch movies and then comment upon what ever we find interesting, noteworthy, or worthy of commentary or critique.  Atani is usually the one who tackles commentary on cinema and ‘the arts’, but in this case since the subject at hand intrudes upon one of my own departments and a set of topics near and dear to my heart which is: Nazism, the holocaust [in its broadest sense], and the difficulties of post-war European society in dealing with their collective responsibility for it, I’ve decided to take this one on myself.  I’m also looking for a good excuse for not dealing with finishing the piece I’m supposed to be writing – other than watching movies.

The question for today is:  what do we do about what our parents or grandparents did, or did not do during the holocaust?  What a question?  How do you deal with something that really can’t be dealt with?  How do you ‘deal with’ guilt or remorse?  What is the appropriate verb here?  The Germans have an especially great word for this process, vergangenheitsbewältigung‘processing of history’, or ‘the struggle to come to terms with the past’.

The German language, gotta love it, I cannot pronounce it properly, but they’ve got such great words.

For newcomers to this blog, this vergangenheitsbewältigung is a subject that I have written about on several occasions here at MemeMerchants, most recently:  Poison in the Well of Culture-slightly off topic reflection on Collective Guilt, and also:  The Rosenstrasse ProtestsVictims of Their Own Oppression, and The White Rose of Munich.

The subject of today’s essay was stimulated by watching Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s 2010 movie Sarah’s Key, which is based upon the best selling novel of the same name [Elle s’Appelait Sarah in the original French] by Tatiana de Rosnay, which deals with the subject of the July 1942 Vel’ d’Hiver Roundup and the deportation of some 13,000 Jewish men, women, and children from Nazi occupied Paris – by the French police.

Well, that ought to be interesting.

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A Tale of Two Secrets-Part Two – Escape Hatches & Errata – locking the escape hatches of Sarah’s Key


Writing the suicide note, older Sarah [© Canal+, Studio37 - 2010]

Writing the suicide note, adult Sarah [Charlotte Poutrel]                      [© Canal+, Studio37 – 2010]

In this installment of my three part series we will continue the discussion of the evolution of the media depiction of the Holocaust via a comparison and contrast of two recent European films: Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s 2010 movie Sarah’s Key, and Nicolas Klotz’s 2007 film Heartbeat Detector by bringing our attention to what I consider to be a number of ‘escape hatches’ and other errors that the plot of Sarah’s Key was written around that dramatically limit its usefulness as a means of bringing its audience to terms with the reality of its subject matter: the July 1942 Vel’ d’Hiver Roundup and the deportation of some 13,000 Jewish men, women, and children from Nazi occupied Paris – by the French police.

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