Thursday, July 21, 2011

REVIEW: The Round Up (2010)

The Round Up (2011). Original Title: La Rafle (original release: 2010). Dir: Rose Bosch. Starring Jean Reno, Mélanie Laurent, Gad Elmalah. IMDB. In French with English subtitles.

The Round Up (2011) isn't Sarah's Key, the film adaptation of which is about to be released, but a nonfictional account of the same event in French World War 2 history- the roundup of French Jews to the Vélodrôme d'Hiver stadium (or Vel d'Hiv for short), and from there to Auschwitz. The film starts before the roundup, introducing us to several French Jewish families from different strata of society- rich, poor and middle class, with special attention paid to their children. We watch their daily lives and the gradual dissipation of their freedom before the roundup. When the roundup happens, it's harrowing and deeply frightening, but that's nothing compared to what's to come.
The kids and their families depart the Vel d'Hiv for parts unknown.
The story really belongs to three characters. Dr. David Scheinbaum, played by Jean Reno, does his best to take care of his thousands of patients living in deplorable conditions in the Vel d'Hiv stadium; assisting him to the best of her ability is a Protestant nurse, Annette Monod (Mélanie Laurent); she stays with the captives right to the last minute, advocating for their care and bearing raging witness to their plight. Finally, the story belongs to little Jo Weismann, a bright scamp of a kid who does the unthinkable- he survives. (The real, elderly Weismann has a small part in the film.)
Nurse Monod looks on as Nazi officers move the families.
The Round Up is an incredible movie and I strongly encourage everyone to watch it or add it to your DVD queue if it's not playing in your area. If you read my book blog you know I wasn't crazy about Sarah's Key the novel (although I'm curious about the film and plan to see it) and really, movies like The Round Up make me wonder if we need fiction about the Holocaust at all. Sometimes, peoples' real stories are more dramatic and moving- and important- than fiction could ever be.  I would particularly urge anyone who's read Sarah's Key to see this movie alongside the adaptation of that popular novel. The actors are amazing and The Round Up, profoundly affecting and disturbing, horrible and hopeful, is, in short, essential viewing.

Rating: RUSH

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FTC Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets from Menemsha Films in exchange for a review.