I’ve been very busy trying to redesign sites (and yes, Dominick Evans Online is getting a very nice redesign). I haven’t had much time to devote to posting about anything. I figured I’d talk about a relatively safe topic, since I’m sure some controversial posts will be coming on my blog soon.
I want to talk about movies. In particular, those that have moved me. I have been thinking about the Holocaust, lately. The sacrifices people made to help those who were taken by the Nazis and the bravery of those who were taken to camps and tortured, were murdered, or watched members of their families head off to their death. This is what brought me to a place where I wanted to write this. I’d like to share with you the movies that have touched me, and there is more than one that has to do with the Holocaust.
So, without further ado, I’m going to get right into the list.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – This movie broke my heart. I don’t cry at movies and I nearly cried at this. If this movie doesn’t touch you, I don’t know what movie will. Yes, this movie could be deemed somewhat unrealistic, though not impossible. If you can look past that, you’ll see this story is about the innocence of children, who were too young to fully comprehend why Jews were considered bad.
It’s about 8 year old Bruno. Bruno’s father is a Nazi officer who is sent to the country to run a concentration camp. His children are tutored in Nazi history and learn about why Jews are bad, but Bruno doesn’t get it. An explorer by nature, he wanders through the woods at the back of the house until he comes upon a fence. There he meets Shmuel. Shmuel is Jewish and is supposed to be helping the others work on one of those meaningless tasks Jews were assigned in camps. The two develop a friendship that ends up having devastating consequences.
Sophie’s Choice – The performance by Meryl Streep (and Kevin Kline) make this movie as good as it is. The scenes where Sophie recalls her time in a German concentration camp are heartbreaking to watch. You truly feel Sophie’s pain and her heartbreak. The title of this movie says it all. Sophie’s choice had to have been the hardest choice she ever made, and it changed her life in ways that tormented her indefinitely. It is easy to see why Meryl won an Oscar for this performance.
This movie is about Sophie Zawistowski, a survivor of the Holocaust who is now living in Brooklyn. Sophie has a turbulent relationship with her lover, Nathan (Kline) who has a drug problem and needs anger management. Nathan is also obsessed with the Holocaust, a constant reminder to Sophie of her haunting past. Wishing to be her knight is Stingo (Peter MacNicol), a young writer who falls madly in love with Sophie. Unfortunately, she has already had such a poisonous life, her toxic love for Nathan is hard for her to let go, along with all the ghosts of her past she is unable to release.
Bent – If you have trouble with gay-themes then you will have trouble watching this movie. Still, you should watch it. The story explores an aspect of the Holocaust that is rarely discussed. Thousands of homosexuals were captured and sent to camps to work, if they weren’t killed immediately. As Clive Owen’s character Max says, it is worse to be homosexual than Jewish. To be homosexual is to be the most vile, lowest person in the camp. If you wanted to survive, you didn’t say you were gay. You denied it.
The movie shows how gays were hunted by the Nazis. Some were murdered on sight and others tortured on the way to camps. Max (Owen) is gay, but he tries to deny it after being taken to Dachau. He is given a yellow star to denote he is a Jew instead of a pink one, which says he is gay. He believes the yellow star will ensure his survival, where the pink star only brings death upon men who wear it. In the camp, he works with Horst (Lothaire Bluteau), a gay man who wears his pink star with pride. The two move rocks from place to place all day, all while having a love affair. The only thing is, they cannot ever touch one another.
Powerful, gripping and heartwrenching can only describe the emotions felt while watching Bent.
The Children’s Hour – I was in college the first time I saw this movie. There was a special at BGSU (a film/cinema event) through VISION (the LGBT* ground on campus) and it aired a documentary called The Celluloid Closet, which examined GLBT characters and GLBT history through cinema. This was the first time I ever heard about the The Children’s Hour. Well, I made an effort to see this movie, and it truly touched me.
The Children’s Hour tells the devastating story of two college friends, Martha and Karen (played by Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn), who start a boarding school for girls. One of the girls at the school, Mary, is a troublemaker and gets in seriously hot water. After being punished, Mary escapes and travels to her Grandmother’s house, where she tells a vicious lie insinuating that Martha and Karen are more than friends. With Mary blackmailing another girl, Rosalie, to corroborate her story, the tall tales of children spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences.
While brilliantly acted by a cast of veteran actors, the movie is very hard to stomach. The topic of homosexuality was not spoken of in 1961, at the time this movie was released, yet the events that unfold are nearly as shocking today as they were back then. Everyone should see this movie, if only to understand how vicious a lie can hurt a person and devastate the lives of others.
It’s My Party – Since we’re on the homosexuality theme, I cannot fail to mention this movie. I never knew the movie was directed and written by Randal Kleiser until I started writing this article. You might recognize his name because he directed Grease and Flight of the Navigator amongst other notable films. Kleiser rounded up an all star cast for It’s My Party that includes Eric Roberts, Gregory Harrison, Marlee Matlin, Margaret Cho, Lee Grant, Roddy McDowall, Bruce Davison, Bronson Pinchot, Devon Gummersall and Olivia Newton-John.
The movie follows the life of Nick (Eric Roberts), who has tested positive for HIV. He has been with his partner, Brandon (Gregory Harrison) for a while, and he is afraid of dying alone. Their relationship crumbles shortly thereafter with Brandon abandoning Nick. A year later, Nick is diagnosed with Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML). The disease is particularly harsh, so he plans to take his own life to avoid a death that will be prolonged and painful for both himself and his family. He only has a few days left until he will be able to make the conscious decision to end his life, so he throws a party to say goodbye.
I don’t see this movie as trying to be pro-assisted suicide or pro-suicide. I see it as a story of a dying man and his family. The movie is hardly political. It does, of course, raise a question of whether humans in Nick’s situation should be allowed to take their life to avoid an inevitable yet potentially hurtful death. I like this movie because it felt genuine and I like the way the cast and crew approached such a touchy subject.
The Pianist: Adrian Brody makes this movie one of my favorites. We’re back on the Holocaust. This movie is just brilliant to watch. The acting is excellent, the film is engaging and the performances move you.
Brody stars as Wladyslaw Szpilman. He is a Pole and a Jew, who also happens to be a musician. Wladyslaw must find a way to use his music to get through the German occupation of Poland and his life spent in Warsaw’s Jewish Ghetto. This is based on a true story about a Polish pianist (supposedly the best in Poland) who must find a way to escape deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. At the same time, Wladyslaw must deal with the deportation of his family, while avoiding capture by the Nazis.
There are other movies that have touched me, but these are the main movies that have actually tugged at my heartstrings.
What movies have touched you?