Don?t miss this unforgettable story of a child who had the courage to come home. Set in 1944, as Hitler?s Final Solution becomes policy throughout Europe, Fateless is the semi-autobiographical tale of a 14 year-old Jewis... more »h boy from Budapest, who finds himself swept up by cataclysmic events beyond his comprehension. A perfectly normal metropolitan teen who has never felt particularly connected to his religion, he is suddenly separated from his family as part of the rushed and random deportation of his city?s large Jewish population. Brought to a concentration camp, his existence becomes a surreal adventure in adversity and adaptation, and he is never quite sure if he is the victim of his captors, or of an absurd destiny that metes out salvation and suffering arbitrarily. When he returns home after the liberation, he missed the sense of community he experienced in the camps, feeling alienated from both his Christian neighbors who turned a blind eye to his fate, and the Jewish family friends who avoided deportation and who now want to put the war behind them.« less
"Watching a film depicting the dehumanizing harshness and brutality of a concentration camp, viewers likely do not expect to find beauty. I have watched this film twice now, and it is its beauty, not its grim, often bleak story line, that seems to have made its first...and lasting...impression on me.
The director and cinematographer chose to film Fateless not in black and white, as Schindler's List was done, but in almost colorless tones washed over with sepia and grey, which give the film the appearance of very early photography, the kind your grandparents and great grandparents might have appeared in. And, just when you think you're watching a black and white film, small hints of real color appear, almost the way real colors sometimes show briefly in departing dreams. The film is an impeccably crafted work of visual art, and it is its imagery that most moved me.
There are three moments of unexpected beauty that for me were most memorable. The first is a sequence showing prisoners forced to stand at attention, knowing that should they fall they will be punished or put to death. Dressed in their striped uniforms and standing in lines, as the impact of the fear drains their weakened bodies, they begin to shake and to sway. And, the movement is accompanied by the mournful singing of what could be a hymn, richly done by a single female voice. As the camera pans over them, it is almost as though they are one with the music, and the effect is gut-wrenching.
The second is a sequence in which the boy makes his way through a downpour in the mud toward a goal which remains ambiguous. As he slips and slides and falls, silhoutted against the falling rain, we no longer see the child he was but simply a human being reduced to the barest of necessities, the need to fight to remain alive. Filmed in black and grey, it is among the film's most powerful symbolic moments.
And, finally, a scene in which the barely living boy is laid out among corpses on the threshold of his own death. As he lies there, we see what he sees: a sky filled with flowing clouds that intermittently allow weak rays of sunlight to filter through them. It is a deeply personal, yet universal statement: the few seconds of time most of us will have as we look at our living world for the last time. Almost incongruously, the moment becomes the beginning of his salvation.
I am sure other viewers of Fateless will take from it parts of the film that they will treasure. These three were among mine. I intend to watch this film many more times. It is a beautifully rendered work of art.
A Film That Deserved a Wider Distribution
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 05/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recall reading Victor Frankl's MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING in college. If I'm not mistaken, I believe I read it for a number of different courses. It seemed to be required in history classes, philosophy and theology classes, and even an introductory class in psychology. Frankl's belief that the human spirit can triumph over the most overwhelming odds is a modern classic. As I watched FATELESS, I was reminded of this book, especially when an older prisoner took an interest in the young Gyorgy Koves (played by Marcell Nagy), the film's main character. Yet while the triumph of the human spirit over adversity can be found in this film, it's hardly a feel good flick. If anything, it's one of those films that will haunt and challenge viewers long after watching it.
The film itself is based on Irme Kertesz's novel which tells the story of a community of Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II. In scenes that would be familiar to those who have read Elie Wiesel's NIGHT, the Jews of Budapest believed they'd be spared, or at least would not face the horrors that those who went to the camps earlier had to endure. Many discovered that this was hardly the case as people from Budapest began to be deported. We see the horrors of the camps as one would expect from such a film. We see the ways in which many prisoners took advantage of the situation while others tried to do their best to make sure as many people as possible survived. The camp is finally liberated and against the advice of the American liberators, Gyorgy returns home and it is then that we see how much the war and suffering changed this once effervescent young teen into someone who knew the truth about life.
There are a number of reasons this film has such power. It has a strong story, it is filmed in a way that is appropriate for what is taking place, and a moving musical score by composer Ennio Morricone. While all these strengths make for a wonderful film, the point of view is perhaps the strongest element. We always see the action through the eyes of the young Gyorgy, and Marcell Nagy is such a gifted young actor, we feel as if we're moving through the film with him.
FATELESS was not widely screened which is unfortunate. People missed the opportunity to see a powerful film on a wide screen where it has its full impact. Its release on DVD will ensure that many others will see it, and no doubt it will be counted among the most compelling accounts of the Holocaust in cinema. "
Learning the Meaning of Life in a Concentration Camp
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Sorstalansag' (FATELESS) is an inordinately powerful, quiet journey through a year in Nazi Concentration Camps at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Zeitz. Adapted by Imre Kertesz from his first novel, the story is semi-autobiographical as Kertesz spent a year of his youth in Auschwitz as a Hungarian Jew. Though Kertesz alters his novel of the life of one Gyorgy Koves, in a manner he carefully explains in one of the featurettes accompanying this DVD, the observational skills and tenor of his literate mind suffuse this surprisingly quiet depiction of life in a death camp.
We first meet Gyorgy Koves as a curly headed handsome 14-year old youth in 1944 bidding farewell to his beloved father as he departs for a labor camp. Wearing the yellow star of David proudly, Gyorgy has little understanding of what it is to be a Jew, a lesson he will learn in the coming year and affect his perception of the world and his place in it. Gyorgy's mother left his father and his father has remarried and requests that Gyorgy stay with his stepmother while he is away 'for a while' in the labor camp. Gyorgy is conflicted as he loves his mother but he does as his father requests. Almost inadvertently Gyorgy and his friends are taken off a bus and separated by the Nazis into trains bound for concentration camps. Gyorgy remains relatively naive about what is happening: his head is shaved, his worldly goods are absconded, and he begins the hellish life of survival in Auschwitz. Where Kertesz writes differently than other authors who have described Holocaust conditions is in his mindset of Gyorgy: Gyorgy strives to retain a sense of equilibrium in this bizarre new life, seeing certain events as probable errors, mistakes, or simply 'the way things are'. He endures starvation, brutal work, pain from an injured and infected knee, boredom, and observing sights of torture of his fellow prisoners. Though he is walking in a stunned world, he is still able to fine the little moments of 'happiness' because of his youthful outlook and creative mind. He gradually grows to understand what being a Jew means, and while he is unable to fathom all he sees in captivity, he learns that if he can't understand life in a concentration camp, how can he understand life outside either. Gyorgy is literally on the carts moving toward the crematorium when the Allies free the camp. He meets an American (Daniel Craig) who suggests he not return to Budapest, but go to America instead where he can pursue a new existence. Yet Gyorgy's devotion to family, to country, and to being a Jew returns him to Budapest where he finds a destroyed city that had been home and wanders the town square trying to make sense of it all.
As Gyorgy Koves, Marcell Nagy gives a stunning performance, a picture of a child/man who is forced to enter the world of adulthood via the horrors of Auschwitz. Nagy captures the essence of the character with minimal dialogue and maximum use of his body language and eyes. The supporting cast is superb, each creating vignettes in the few moments we see them that burn into our memory. The cinematography by Gyula Pados uses subdued color for the scenes outside the camps and a subtle sepia toned black and white or the scenes within the walls of the terrifyingly real buildings and yards of the camps. The musical score by Ennio Morricone sustains the mood throughout. But it is the director Lajos Koltai whose impeccable sensitivity to Kertesz' writing and vision that makes this long (140 minutes) film a seamless pondering of the passage of time - minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, etc - that is the essence of Gyorgy's survival of a nightmare 'with little moments of happiness wherever they may happen'. This is a magnificent film, by a gifted crew, and though it contains visuals that will crush your heart, it must be seen to be believed. In Hungarian and German and English with subtitles. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, June 06 "
Imre Kertesz adapts his controversial Holocaust novel for th
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Even beside the chimneys in the pause between the torments there was something similar to happiness."
"Sorstalansag" ("Fateless") is a different sort of film about the Holocaust. It is based on the controversial novel by Imre Kertesz, a Jewish-Hungarian author and concentration camp survivor who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002 "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history." "Sorstalansag" is Kertesz's best known book, and while the author has played down that the novel was autobiographical or quasi-autobiographical (Kertesz spent a year in Auschwitz whereas the central character of his book moves from camp to camp), apparently when he wrote the screenplay for this 2005 Hungarian film, he worked in more of his own experiences from the camps.
Gyorgy Koves (Marcell Nagy) is fourteen years old and living with his well to do Jewish family in Budapest when he is put on a bus and ends up with other kids in a camp. Somebody tells them to tell the Germans they are sixteen, because anybody younger is sent immediately to the gas chamber. This is the first time that somebody does something that will help keep Gyorgy alive as he goes from camp to camp. What is controversial about the story is the idea that Gyorgy finds not "happiness," but what Kertesz describes as "something similar to happiness." The relativity of the term is important, because this is a world where it is a good thing when the kid sharing your bunk dies and you get their food for a day or two before the guards discover you are sleeping next to a corpse.
Director Lajos Koltai is a cinematographer who was nominated for an Oscar for "Malena," but he lets Gyula Pados ("Kontroll") shoot this picture and together they come up with something interesting visually. "Sorstalansag" begins in color, but when we get to the camps the color is bled away so that it is black and white with tints of blue. The film because almost poetic in its depiction of what happens, showing the piles of clothing by the empty box cars, the lines of prisoners forced to stand in straight lines throughout the night, or watching Gyorgy and other prisoner chase each other around in the mud. Time and time again a scene ends before you expect to, and we recognize a sense of how the greatest horrors are around the corner. It is not seeing escaped prisoners hung that the film privileges as horror, but a starving Gyorgy watching a corpulent German solider stuffing his face.
For me the idea that a young boy would focus on what made him happy amidst the horrors of the camps is not farfetched. Gyorgy is never going to forget, and if he chooses to remember the best moments rather than the worst, I am certainly not in a position to criticize him. The point where I started questioning the narrative is when we get to a moment that first surprised me in "Schindler's List," where we learn the shocking fact that there were actually showers in Auschwitz, and not just gas chambers dressed up as showers. There were several points where I thought Gyorgy was dead, one after another, even though I expected him to survive the camps, so that challenged by credulity. But then there was something that reminded me of Kertesz's agenda. One minute it is the middle of the night and the Germans are ordering the crematoriums shut down. The next it is the day and the camp has been liberated and there are American soldiers all over the place. The moment of liberation is not part of the equation. Nor, when Gyorgy returns to Budapest the moment of reconciliation with his mother. Instead it is when he is questioned by a man on the trolley that Kertesz sets up the benediction of his film:
"People only ask about the horrors. Whereas I should talk about the happiness of the camps next time. If they ask. If they ask at all. And if I don't forget myself.""
Has the World Learned? Could It Happen Again? Who Is Next?
Erika Borsos | Gulf Coast of FL, USA | 07/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Marcell Nagy portrays the fourteen year old boy Gyorgy Koves in a very deeply emotional and haunting existential film about survival in several Nazi concentration camps. Marcell has large intelligent brown eyes that experience everything and absorb events. Marcell tells us his life story in a matter of fact distant voice, his feelings and thoughts are told in a stream of consciousness manner which makes the film even more penetrating and real to the viewer ... who experiences first hand the horrors of the worst atrocities associated with World War II.
The film begins with Marcell going about his everyday life in Budapest, the son of an upper middle class family. He is carefree and planning his future until stories filter down about the horrors of the concentration camps. Family members gather, including great Aunts and Uncles to discuss the possibilities, even making small jokes - planning but not yet realizing the full impact of such unspeakable tragedies on their lives. There is a partial denial of events until Jews are required to wear the yellow star of David on their jackets and many randomly disappear ... They are taken by train to camps in Germany. Gyorgy's father closes his shop, makes arrangements with a loyal employee to turn the business over to him with an understanding it is until the war is over. The viewer senses the hopelessness and finality when the keys are handed over. Gyorgy is put on a work detail at a factory, when he and a busload of young workers are detained at a Gendarme police station ...
Luckily, Gyorgy knew a few words of German when the prisoners were separated at the train station into groups. He over heard one line lead to a better camp and if someone was older they went on a work detail, young prisoners who could not work wree not valued. This was the first of many random happenings where the right decision led to ... life ... or death. Gyorgy's fate hung in the balance. Throughout the film, different scenes are totally unforgettable, they leave deep indelible impressions on the viewer, images are seared into the mind, branded, tattoed forever. When airplanes flew overhead, while everyone took shelter, Gyorgy was counting the number of seconds before a bomb exploded ... When Gyorgy and his friends were in the Gendarme's office, as each one met with the officer, he asked about their backgrounds and confiscated their belongings - the lack of compassion was so transparent and inhumane, the greed for a penknife was in such sharp contrast to the serious decisions made at the moment about so many lives.
There were scenes in the camp when all the prisoners are lined up in the barbed wire prison yard, wearing striped uniforms and standing in the cold and the rain as punishement and also for roll call. Scenes where rocks were being shovelled and the cruel behavior of the prison guards toward the weaker prisoners made one shudder. Scenes where Gyorgy developed an infection in his leg, an abscess which turned out to have maggots in it. Scenes where Gyorgy was starving and hungry, as a corpulent German guard ate meat and bread from his lunch box while Gyorgy chewed along as if he were tasting the meal. Gyorgy developed a friendship with a fellow prisoner who was also from Budapest. This was a very heartwarming sincere friendship as each looked out for one the other. His friend spoke with hope and love about the street where he lived and about returning in the future to his beloved apartment/home in Budapest. This one goal provided meaning to his existence in the camp ... In another heart-wrenching scene, two prisoners escaped and were hung as an exmaple to the rest.
Lastly, the rescue scene is very memorable, where a kind genorous and efficient American soldier spoke with Gyorgy about his future plans, explaining to him, he could go to America, enter college and forget about all this, put it all behind him. The soldier could not understand why Gyorgy chose to return to Budapest ... When Gyorgy arrived in Budapest, everything about life there seemed surreal even when he travelled on buses. He saw the people lived and experienced nearly normal life, a few realized he was a Holocaust survivor, some looked at him with horror, others with a guilty fascination. A few dared to ask questions about his experiences, Gyorgy replied in a philosophical detached tone of voice. He was coming to grips with the realization of having lived through one of the worst tragedies ever in the history of mankind. His focus was to find his family, discover who had survived and reclaim his life while assimilating the completely inexplicable experiences of the concentration camp into his present and future in order to build a meaningful whole. This film is certainly one of the best Holocaust films made. It should be viewed by anyone wanting to understand the subject from a first person perspective. Another highly recommended film in a similar vein is about several generations of a Jewish family who owned a highly successful business, the film is "Sunshine" starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. Erika Borsos (pepper flower)"