Friday, July 30, 2010

The Grey Zone

*Tim Blake Nelson *2001 *108m *

Of all holocaust films this one is the probably the closest close-up of the realities. This film is entirely takes place in a concentration camp. Set in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the action is in the midst of the Sonderkommando, the Jewish workforce, which, in return for a reprieve of four months, manned the day to day workings of the concentration camp. Their duties involve the "reception" of the human "cargoes", their undressing, hair-cutting, gassing and finally cremation in the ovens. The title probably refers to the moral choice faced by these commandos, who have to perform these ghoulish tasks on their own kith and kin, who are going to die anyway, in return for four extra months of life. To what extent have they sold their souls? The question is all the more sharply brought into focus in the shape of a girl who miraculously escapes the gassing process and these undeads risk their lives to save this child, who also is foredoomed under the circumstances. The torment of the kommandos culminates in this courageous act of redemption.

I am reminded of Hamlet, as he brushes aside Horatio's proposal to postpone events which seem headed for his death::

"Not a whit, we defy augury: there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes?"

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