Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Educational Movie Review: Sarah's Key

We saw a screening of Sarah's Key last night.

This is a movie about the Vél' d'hiv' Roundup in Paris in 1942, which is an event of which I was previously unaware, so I learned something. Learning is good.

The movie follows two parallel timelines, one the story of a little Jewish girl (Sarah) in Paris in 1942 who, with her parents, is arrested and held in the Vélodrome d’hiver before they're all sent to the camps.

Before leaving the house, she hides her little brother in the closet and locks the door with the key referenced in the title. As the story goes on, she works desperately to get back to the apartment to save him.

In the present day, a journalist (Julia) is preparing to move into an apartment which has been owned since 1942 by her husband's family. It is the apartment Sarah and her family lived in, made available after they were arrested and taken away, and Julia becomes engrossed in an investigation of the history of the place.

If I were to make a broad summary, I'd say it's a movie about how the past lives on inside the present; about secrets; about, obviously, the horror of the Holocaust and how people can turn on each other, or simply stand by and do nothing. Complicity. Guilt. Intentional and unintentional wrongs.

So there are some heavy themes, as you might imagine, but it wasn't overwhelmingly dark, nor did it seem overly didactic or heavy-handed about the historical information it conveys or the points it addresses.

It's mostly in French, so if you fear subtitles (and don't speak French), be aware of that.

I thought it got a little bit slow toward the end, as Julia is trying to contact members of Sarah's family in the present day and we lose the immediacy of Sarah's own timeline.

Overall, however, I would say it was well worth watching, and I'm glad I saw it.


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