Reviews - True North
Reviewed By John Stakes
Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky has brought these true-life events powerfully to the screen in a compelling and gripping thriller which has already earned a 2008 Oscar nomination for “ Best Film in a foreign language “ and is destined to garner many more awards.
To execute their plan the Nazis dragooned an assorted bunch of Jewish inmates including a professional forger, printers and various other craftsmen all of whom would otherwise have perished alongside their families, friends and compatriots had they refused to fall into line.
It is difficult to imagine a more frightening situation in which to have to make the agonising choice between taking the opportunity for personal survival by co-operating with the German war effort in this way, or deciding not to because of one’s beliefs and concern for one’s countrymen and thereby confirming your own death warrant. This dilemma was to haunt the team throughout their incarceration.
This could have been yet another unbearably grim drama of concentration camp life, but Ruzowitzky’s methodology was to concentrate on the obvious daily fine line between survival and death by using his mastery of the thriller genre in many key scenes. The cleverly constructed scene climaxing with the news that the Bank of England had authenticated ace forger “ Sally “ Sorowitsch’s pound notes was alone worth the cost of admission. The tension as survival hung by a thread was maintained by the combination of some very adroit hand held camera work and tight editing all of which illuminated the plight of the inmates, their boiler house conditions, and the stranglehold of their captors. At the same time we were alerted to the horrors being perpetrated only just out of sight to the less fortunate ones by various subtle touches deliberately pitched to feed the imagination The surviving team members’ release into the rest of the corpse-strewn camp when liberation finally came was memorable.
The ensemble cast led by Karl Markovics ( “ Sally “ ) and supported by August Diehl ( Adolf Burger ) were excellent. Both men underplayed their roles to perfection so we were in no doubt as to their inner turmoil just below their outward expressions.
Ruzowitsky deserves every success with this brilliant film watched by another large audience which was obviously gripped throughout.
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