Sarah's Key (Elle s'appelait Sarah) [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
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An intrepid journalist brings the past to life in this gripping drama. An American based in Paris, Julia Jarmond (Tell No One's Kristin Scott Thomas) has been working on a piece about a French atrocity while planning to move into an apartment that belongs to her husband Bertrand's family. During the course of her research, she finds that 10-year-old Sarah Starzynski (Mélusine Mayance, a sparky presence) lived in the same Marais flat until 1942 when French authorities wrenched Jewish citizens from their homes during the notorious Vél d'Hiver Roundup (Julia's daughter is only a year older). Unbeknownst to anyone but her parents, Sarah locked up her 4-year-old brother in a hidden closet in hopes of returning to set him free him later, but the trio ends up in a transit camp en route to Auschwitz. Sarah will eventually escape, but the years to come will not be easy. In adapting Tatiana de Rosnay's novel, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner, the son of a deportee, moves back and forth between Sarah and Julia, who finds out she's pregnant in the midst of trips to Florence and New York, but Bertrand doesn't share her joy. A French farmer (A Prophet's Niels Arestrup) and a food writer (Aidan Quinn) also figure into Sarah's story, which merges with Julia's as she finds a way to carry on her legacy. Much as in Julie and Julia, the past proves more compelling than the present, though Scott Thomas holds the narrative together with the force of her talent. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Generally, movies are not great at capturing the detail and character development of a book - and often the visualization can conflict with the way a reader interprets the event as described in the book. Having said that, the movie Sarah's Key does a very good job of covering the period with context....and keeping the viewer engaged until the end (which ends abruptly and with many questions unanswered). Sarah is highly believable as is her family in the beginning of the film. The actual reporter who covers the story was in fact born in France though in the film/book was made an American who moved to Paris and married a Parisian. This doesn't significantly impact the accuracy of the event but does create an element that could perhaps detract from the core story.
I really can't say more without giving away the outcome of the film but might suggest if you haven't read the book yet....watch the movie and then read the book....which will complete some of the detail left out in the film. This is the reverse of my usual recommendation re: book/film. It is a very compelling film.
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The plot drives you forward with the fascinating and harrowing story of a young girl named Sarah set amidst the round-up of Jews in 1942 France. Sarah's tale is intercut with modern sequences in which Kristin Scott Thomas plays a journalist about to inhabit an apartment once occupied by Sarah's family. Scott Thomas becomes intrigued by the history of the residence as her husband's family acquired the property late in 1942. This leads her to be obsessed in finding out the truth of the those that were forced to give up the apartment. While Scott Thomas is terrific, it is Sarah's tale that really resonates. Sent to the camps, divided from her family, desperate to find her brother--I was captivated, horrified, and excited by her journey. She is a great character leading the viewer on a devastating path. A moment halfway through the story stands as one of the highpoints in film this year. But after that moment, Sarah all but disappears from the film. Instead of being a pivotal lead, she becomes more of an enigma. And the focus shifts firmly to Scott Thomas tracking down the girl. This mystery element is fine, and has its moments, but nothing compares to Sarah's own voice.
The difference between the first half of the film and the second is like night and day. One is a story lived, one is a story told. It is a dichotomy that is also showcased in the novel, but I didn't feel the void left by Sarah's absence so astutely on the page. Melusine Mayance is unforgettable as the young Sarah, and Scott Thomas is at the top of her game. Whether or not you've read the novel, this is an easy recommendation. It is top tier filmmaking for adult audiences. The first hour of "Sarah's Key" is burned into my brain! I would rate the film in two parts: 5 stars for the first half, 4 stars for the second half. So, for me, this ranks at 4 1/2 stars which I will gladly round up for its power and scope. Check it out! KGHarris, 11/11.
The best movie I've seen in 2011 so far is Sarah's Key (2010). This French-English import is one of those little "sleeper" movies that totally surprises you and blows you away when you see it. Sarah's Key has a very emotional core to it that really looks into the human condition from multiple perspectives. And it searches for the "truth" within. This is a movie much in the vein of Schindler's List (1993), The Pianist (2002), The Reader (2008), and The English Patient (1996). It's not exactly "light" fare. But it's also not quite as dark as Schindler's List or The Pianist. I found the weaving of the two main story lines, one past and one present, to be perfect. It's not always easy for a filmmaker to pull together past and present set stories, with actors playing the same character at various ages, but director Gilles Paquet-Brenner found a way to do it brilliantly. And the same can be said for the way he weaves together both French and English languages into the movie. I never felt like I was "working" to follow the dialogue through reading subtitles. Granted, the movie is only partially subtitled. Parts of it are in English and parts are in French.
The story centers around the events of the French round-up of its own Jewish citizens in July 1942. That's right...the French, not the Germans. Of course I'm sure the French were feeling pressure from the Germans during the time. And yet it's hard to overlook the fact that the French were just as guilty of genocide as the Germans and Russians. One can truly understand why there was a "World" war at this time. Sarah's Key is simply sharing another piece of the puzzle that we've been reluctant to look at until recently because of how ugly the puzzle is. The impact of this ugly mindset at the time spreading from country to country across the globe must have been like a virus, gradually infecting each host and getting them from within. The opening scenes with the capture of Sarah's family and their move to an internment camp at Auschwitz are gripping to say the least. Sarah, played brilliantly by young actress Mélusine Mayance, makes a choice on how to save her younger brother from the horrors she anticipates will fall upon them. But that choice has consequences, as we soon find out. I don't want to give too much of the story away, since it is much better to let the movie unfold it for you.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays a modern journalist, investigating this historic incident, while at the same time unravelling a very personal and ironic connection to it. The film does require that you let go of what could be too "coincidental" for reality. But remember, this is a fictional movie at the end of the day, inspired by real events. And movies by their very nature, are contrived to some degree. I never found myself getting lost in my mind thinking about how unrealistic some of the story arcs were. Instead, I simply felt emotionally engaged in the suspenseful and thrilling discovery of all of the secrets that Sarah's Key possesses. And I credit all of the talented artists who contributed to making that possible in this film. The writing, editing, cinematography, production design, acting, music and sound are top notch for this small indie film rumored to be made for less than $10 million. Sarah's Key is an amazing accomplishment for so little money, and a reminder to Hollywood that it's not the size of the budget of a movie that really matters for its quality. To me its the assembly and collaboration of many talented people unified to tell a great story.
There are two scenes that really stand out for me in the film. The first being the opening with Sarah and her brother tickling and giggling with each other under the covers in bed. The director is clearly showing us the innocent fun times of childhood. The camera work there and that little slice of "happy" to start the film with are an incredible contrast to the darker more "adult" tone of the rest of the film. The second scene that really caught my eye is when Sarah and a fellow young female companion are floating in a murky, muddy river, cleansing themselves. Both of these scenes are just small, idealized, dreamy cinematic sequences that on their own, offer needed artistic moments of escape from the story. Within any horrific context, there's always still something beautiful to be discovered and seen if one looks for it. And director Paquet-Brenner shares that.
Music composer Max Richter has created an unbelievably perfect music score for Sarah's Key that not only elevates the film, but is an incredible work to listen to all on its own. The score has mostly a classic sound to it, but Richter also incorporates bits of modern music composition and style as well. It's one of the best film scores I've heard in years. Within the film, the score gives many scenes their emotional gravity, as is typically the case. But something about Richter's music here stands out from the typical score. And you'll know it when you hear it.
I could spend a lot more time discussing the themes, ideas and incredible filmmaking prowess present in Sarah's Key, but I firmly believe in letting movies speak for themselves as well. I've given you a little to chew on and hopefully inspire you to see this film, even though on the surface (or by its book cover), Sarah's Key looks like a "heavy" film. I challenge you to watch it and grab on to it in some manner. It's movies like this that really give cinema its name. And I'm glad to see that we are still making these films, especially within the broader worldwide cinematic context we are now within.
At the end of Sarah's Key, my eyes were red from the tears that flowed throughout the film. And my mind was speechless as I just embraced the very strong emotional connection I felt with the story and the film. I'm personally always looking for movies that can give me that kind of experience. Don't get me wrong, I love the epic, action-filled extravaganzas like Inception (2010) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) as well. But it's small films like Sarah's Key that more often fill my cinematic diet now with the nutrition that I need.
A serious story of the French persecution of their Jewish citizens during WWII, Sarah's Key is an impelling tale of a young girl's struggle with her captivity and the consequences of her actions. Set in Paris in 1942 and 2009, The film switches back and forth between the 1940s and 2000s as the plot develops.
The story is told by an American journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) who in 2009 discovers that her French husband's family bought a dwelling that had been occupied by a Jewish family before the internment. Julia becomes fascinated with the history and resolves to discover the truth concerning the events of 1942.
The Jewish family Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski and their children are rounded up by the French police in 1942. The family lost all their possessions, them they were separated and sent to different work camps before being transported to Auschwitz.
Unlike many films about the Holocaust, Sarah's Key does not focus upon the death camps or the killing of thousands of Jews. Instead, this story is about Sarah who locks her little brother in a closet to protect him when the French police come to arrest her father. Unfortunately the police take her and her mother as well and sarah is unable to return home to release her brother from the closet. Sarah becomes focused upon escaping the police so she can rescue her brother.
The film does show some of the initial suffering of those Jews who are arrested by the French. There are several graphic scenes of police brutality and indifference of the general population to the plight of those captured.
Julia Jarmond Kristin Scott Thomas is excellent as Julia Jarmond, and Niels Arestrup is outstanding as the French farmer who aids Sarah. However ten year old Melisine Mayance carries the movie as the young Sarah Starzynski. Mayance is talented and according to her director (DVD special effects) a gifted natural actress.
Sarah's Key is a gripping movie. The story is based upon a best selling novel.
I recommend this film.
The other story, set in 2009, is about an American journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas), who, after inheriting the apartment Sarah lived in (the fact Julia does not know), starts investigating the truths about the events that happened about 67 years ago.
Based on Tatiana De Rosnay's book of the same title (which I haven't read), "Sarah's Key" employs a double narrative in which the story goes back and forth in time, and like most double narrative structure, one half of the film is less interesting than the other. I don't think we need the story of Julia, a character we really don't care, despite Kristin Scott Thomas's fine acting for which she was nominated for César.
The real star, or I should say heroine, of the film is Mélusine Mayance playing young Sarah, who has to go through grueling hardships to keep her promise with her little brother. Unfortunately she exits the story a bit too early, and the film slowly loses momentum after that. Why didn't filmmakers focus one story instead of two when they should have known that the film is "Sarah's Key," not "Julia's"?
Those who want to know more about "Vel' d'Hiv Roundup" may be interested in a 2010 French film "The Round Up" (" La Rafle") starring Gad Elmaleh, Mélanie Laurent and Jean Reno.