The Grey Zone (2001) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: A Nazi doctor, along with the Sonderkommando, Jews who are forced to work in the crematoria of Auschwitz against their fellow Jews, find themselves in a moral grey zone. Runtime: 108 mins Release Date: 30 Nov 2001
Many Holocaust films present the ethical dilemna of trying to stay alive at the cost of allowing others to die or even sending others to their death. A few films might focus on the dreaded Kapos in the camps -- or on the elitist Jewish Council members who helped organize the transport groups -- or on the musicians/performers who entertained the Nazis -- all of whom hoped that they would be allowed to survived. But this film focuses on the Sonderkommandos -- the special workers -- who ushered Jewish victims to the gas chambers and burned the bodies. They too hoped to survive. But they must <more>
have known that they were going to be murdered eventually, if only because they had become the most dangerous witnesses to the cold Nazi horror. And the film begins by informing us that these groups of Sonderkommandos were never allowed to live longer than four months. There are several reasons you must see this film. First, it is based on the diary of Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jew chosen by Josef Mengele to be the head pathologist at Auschwitz. And it dramaticizes the true attempt by Sonderkommandos to destroy the Auschwitz gas chambers. Second, it focuses on ethical dilemnas faced by Dr. Nyiszli and the various Sonderkommandos who are trying to save themselves, their families, or ... just someone ... anyone. To say that these men were "co-opted" by the Nazis is to ignore the horror of the coercion, debasement and dehumanization that the Nazis inflicted -- not only on their prisoners, but upon themselves. One can imagine that some Sonderkommandos were selfish -- just as some Kapos were cruel and some doctors who assisted the Nazis were accomplices. But the question remains -- what would you have done in the face of such coercion and duress?Third, the film -- based on Tim Blake Nelson's play -- is not the typical Holocaust film. There is very little redeeming behavior. There is no uplifting ending. The grey zone of moral ambiguity is presented as a cold, unfeeling, horrifying place -- where you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't -- which means that they are all damned! For the first third of the film, the script is obtuse, confusing, and disconnecting -- as it should be, considering that we may as well be taking the point of view of someone who just arrived on a train and entered the gates of hell. How can any of this make sense? In the opening scene, the Doctor is asked to save the life of a Jew who attempted suicide. How absurd can that be -- to save the life of someone who will sooner rather than later be murdered by the Nazis anyway?!In conclusion, the play/film contains dialogue and scenes that are memorable. This is one of my favorites. One Jewish leader is demanding that they destroy the gas chambers as soon as possible. But another Jewish leader is still planning on escape, arguing that he has every right to expect to live. The first leader replies, something to the effect that, after what he has seen and done, he does not want to live! Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, April 18, 2004. Last night, after seeing a Holocaust documentary on Kurt Gerron "Prisoner of Paradise" a friend of mine asked me what I would have done? I told her that it would depend on whom I was caring for -- my wife and my daughters -- my parents. It was then that I realized that I would have probably done everything that every Jew did during the Holocaust. I would have tried to save myself and my family. I would have abandoned others -- even betrayed others. I would have killed. I would have fought the Nazis. And I would have probably been killed for it. I would have despaired -- tried suicide -- become depressed, useless to everyone. I don't think I would have survived. I think the only question in that regard -- and it shows how irrelevant the question really is -- is "how soon would I have died." That is why I remember Holocaust Memorial Day -- so that I will never forget -- and I can help work towards a time when such a hell will not occur in Europe, in Africa, in the Middle East, in the US, ... anywhere.
This movie is by far the best holocaust movie ever. It covers an aspect of the holocaust is rarely seen in other Holocaust-movies, namely the destruction and cleaning of gassed Jews by other Jews. The acting work of David Arquette, Harry Keitel and Steve Buscemi is excellent. The setting is perfect very depressing, as it should be . The music fits superbly in.You should pick a right night for this evening though, because everything, from the gassing to cleaning to burning, is shown uncensored in this movie. The ruthless executions by the German SS is uncensored. As you can imagine, it's <more>
quite heavy on the stomach, but this is a MUST-SEE movie.
THE GREY ZONE is so good it's literally painful to watch. (by stedrazed)
This might not sound like a recommendation, but when you consider the film's subject matter, "painful" is actually a good word to describe THE GREY ZONE's brilliance. Director Tim Blake Nelson has crafted a fascinating portrayal of the Sonderkomando, Jewish concentration-camp prisoners who help the Nazis in order to ensure for themselves a few extra months of life, as well as creature comforts denied to the other prisoners. The script and cast are equally effective. David Arquette proves himself to be not merely the idiot bastard son of the Arquette family with a powerful <more>
performance; Harvey Kietel and Steve Buscemi are brilliant as always. The film's real strength, making it the greatest Holocaust film I've ever seen, is its relevance; we may think ourselves to noble to sell out our brethren to save our own lives, but we would certainly reconsider if actually faced with this choice. In the end, Nelson brilliantly implies that perhaps the nightmare world of the Sonderkomando is really not so different from our own workaday reality.
I think I am approaching this film with a slightly different perspective than a lot of people here. 2 months ago I visited both Auschwitz, and Birkenau as I passed through Poland. It is arguably the most horrifying and at the same time the most important thing I have done in my life. I watched the 'Grey Zone' some months before I left, and yes to echo some I found the acting somewhat overdone in places and the first bit of the movie rather confusing. Having come back, it is a different story. The acting is heavy because the emotion of the place is heavy. The confusion you might feel <more>
in the first part of the film is what you *should* feel. Never forget, that Auschwitz is where the rule of law, decency and normality ceased to apply. This movie will not make you feel good, so don't expect it too...it is not its intent to present a happy victorious story. Its intent is to show those who have not lived through or visited Auschwitz just a small part of the horror of everyday existence, the juxtaposition of what may be right, and what you would do for another day of life. Having seen the cells in Block XI, having seen the womens camp, having stood in the remaining gas chamber and crematoria at Auschwitz I, I can assure you that this movie does its best to do justice to the memory of those who died. It is well worth seeing.Scott
This is the second film from writer/director/actor Tim Blake Nelson to disappear into film limbo. Known for his leading role in O Brother Where Art Thou, he also wrote and directed O, which was shelved after the Columbine massacre. It has taken 3 years for The Grey Zone to arrive on Australian shores, and it has now gone straight to video. This is a great shame as this is a stunning film worthy of far more attention. It is the true story of the Sonderkommando groups in Auschwitz, the most infamous of all Nazi concentration camps. The Sonderkommandos were Jewish prisoners who volunteered to <more>
work on the gas chambers and furnaces in exchange for better treatment and extended life. No team ever lasted more than 4 months, and would themselves be added to the groups herded into the gas chamber by the next sonderkommando group. This is the tale of the 12th group, who used their position to revolt against the Nazis and blow up the two primary gas chambers/furnaces. There are many flaws within the film; the dialogue feels too much like a play which makes the discussions somewhat static, everybody has an American accent except for Harvey Keitel who somehow manages to sound like Mel Brooks impersonating a German, and the details of how they select Sonderkommandos and their lifestyles are not very well dealt with. However, these faults do very little to diminish the power of this film. For above all else, this is a story that not only succeeds in answering the question of why Jews would volunteer for such a duty, but also allows the viewer a stunning and horrifying look into human psychology and the politics of oppression. While a film like Schindler's List allows us a broader view of the overall situation, it failed to truly give any insight into the individuals who allowed the machines of war to keep operating. How could people not rise up and at least to try fight knowing they were going to die anyway? The Grey Zone gives the viewer a very clear and very painful view of the weakness within humanity, of how humans allow themselves to be convinced that everything will be ok, no matter what evidence we have in front of us. In telling the story of the one uprising to occur within the most destructive of all concentration camps, we get to show the good in man, and the evil. And in this the film succeeds above many other films, and is worthy of praise far surpassing the melodramatic tripe that Hollywood usually tries to feed us in regards to the second world war. And, in our current political climate, it is more important than ever to understand how easily we fall back on our ability to turn a blind eye and believe the lies that even our next door neighbour will tell us.
When I visited Auschwitz in 1990, I remember that my companion and I sat down outside the gates, once we were done, and cried for about an hour before catching the train back to Krakow.When I saw the first few minutes of this film, and those horrible buildings and the piles of ash that were still there when I visited, it brought everything back, but told a story I didn't know much about.It makes sense that the Nazi's would have used Jews to dispose of other Jews...they were totally expendable, and it's very logical, and perhaps that is why it is so horrible.The dialog is a bit <more>
Mamet like, yes, and you definitely know that you are watching something that was once a play, based on the somewhat mannered dialog and direction. And yet, it's a great story, well acted.Who is culpable? What would you do to survive? If you knew you were probably going to die, wouldn't you want to enjoy your last few weeks eating and drinking well? It's one of the very few films on the Holocaust I've seen that doesn't draw everything in black and white....what some of these men do to their fellow Jews is despicable, yet who amongst us can say that if he were hungry and desperate, he might not do the same.Definite food for thought.....and warning.. I wouldn't eat during this movie. You may experience some queasiness.
The Grey Zone is so full of horror and anguish that it's a hard movie to watch in some ways.The basic premise is 'how far would we go to save ourselves' in situations such as those faced by the Jews in Nazi concentrations camps. The answer is, of course, almost as far as necessary. This film concerns the crews of Jews who were forced to lead their countrymen into the gas chambers at Auzcwitz and then dispose of the bodies in cematoria afterward.With the only option death, what would you do? It's a tough question to answer but this film gets it about right. By the halfway mark <more>
you are so immune to seeing piles of dead men, women and children around that I think you actually can start to feel just a tiny bit of how desensitized these men must have become as they tried to buy themselves just a few more months of live.Most of the performances are very good though I disagree with some that Harvey Keitel's was up to his usual brilliance. The German accent didn't seem quite right to me but there you go.Great film, great message.
Just desserts for Judas goats who lead lambs to slaughter (by thrillerclub)
We're only human, no one is going to get the Holocaust period on film 100% perfectly. That would be too horrific and almost impossible, from what I've read and seen of the actual documents. This was a sincere effort, and it has an excellent cast. Regardless of the results, they were trying. It's not a clinical recreation of the events, and not historically accurate in every sense by any means- that wasn't the point or even possible, let alone feasible. It's loosely based on the facts. On that basis, I'll weigh the logic of the film, not actual events it loosely <more>
portrays with occasional pinpoint accuracy. This is a Hollywood film, not a documentary after all. The Nazis are portrayed especially the guard Keitel plays, and Mengele as logical, albeit cold, realists. The liquidations in this movie depiction are apparently based on the available food and the amount of time left before the Russian encirclement rather than an insatiable bloodthirst. The Germans as well as the Hungarians are often seen obliterating their consciousness of the daily chores with vodka the final solution . The idea of keeping a girl alive is a pathetic, hopeless dream. In reality, this happened several times but meant very little in the scheme of things as run by the Nazis. Mengele is portrayed as sensitive, understanding, yet more than capable of the double speak, such as "increase in research"... This is for me one of the more sinister horrors - that Mangele appears reasonable, granting privileges to the Jewish doctor, and as history turned out, Josef Mengele had a long life.The movie suggests the German guards such as Keitel were as fatalistic as the Sonderkommando - knowing they too would soon be executed, by the Red Army; or killed by American bombers which never came . No one seems to be in total denial... all of them just trying to survive or die for a good reason. Or no reason. To be a cut above the average camp population, if only for a season. For a bottle of wine you'd escort 1,000 people into the gas chamber. Why not? We all die anyway. Welcome, friend, to the Sonderkommando.
I'm really pleased this angle has been addressed in film, rather than solely in literature. The Sonderkommando and Kapo perspective is too often overlooked and based on stereotype and it was interesting to have them as the focus. The role of the Germans and Nazis have been re-addressed more and more in films like 'Good' and 'The Reader' and have been thoroughly explored through literature. While the role of the Sonderkommando is rarely a focus of literature, due to the traditional 'black and white' 'good and evil' popular portrayal, perhaps the changing <more>
consideration of 'ordinary Germans' have given rise to the focus on this, which is interesting. After reading Borowski's work, I had hoped a film of this nature would have been more popular, as it definitely aids understanding of the event.The execution was good, I though it raised interesting messages behind the mindset of a sonderkommando, as well as could be done through the media of film. The acting was average, although Arquette was surprisingly convincing.What does annoy me about this film, and perhaps all recreations of this nature is the need for redemption and logical progression. The film groups together various historically accounts to generate a fictitious chronology of events, which complete alter the history. This is particularly dangerous given the claims given at the start that this is based on a true story. I can understand why they've done it, for character progression and dramatisation and it is frustrating. The redemption in this films comes with the prevailing of morality, rather than survival. As with all blockbusters, such as 'Schindler's List,' 'Life is Beautiful' 'Pianist' etc.... I feel this is giving a message, almost reason to the holocaust, which I think is dangerous. Perhaps my qualms lie more with the representation in film than the execution of this specific film...The link to Levi's work is clear, and it brings to light an important issue overlooked. It's executed well, and camera work is shocking and realistic. I would recommend watching this film, it is both enlightening and educational, if not a tad commercialised.