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A review of the tim nelsons film the grey zone 2001

As Oliver Hirschbeigel, director of Das Experiment recently said, "As a filmmaker I do not plan on getting any message across I'm a storyteller. I want to entertain people. As Nelson outlines his reasons for making the film, it soon becomes evident that the philosophical dimensions are as important to him as the story. Listening to him is a little bizarre--Nelson's words are compelling and intelligent, while his face is that of Delmar from O Brother Where Art Thou? Few people are capable of speaking consistently in complete sentences.

Nelson doesn't just do that.

  • It is not tied up in a little bow for easy consumption;
  • I simply bring them up;
  • In exchange, they would live an extra four months while enjoying special privileges such as larger quarters, better food, books, alcohol, and cigarettes;
  • I think that's good;
  • And people, again as Levi points out protect that way of looking at history, because it serves them;
  • My parents weren't home because my mother was giving birth to my brother at the hospital.

He speaks in complete paragraphs, his every thesis thoughtfully and persuasively argued. Nelson, who is Jewish, believes the Holocaust is wrongly dichotomized as an epic struggle between good and evil.

Citing the work of Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, Nelson argues that such a portrayal is unfair to the victims. Particularly in history's darkest times, we'd like to think in terms of extremes.

We don't want to accept that there are nuances and gray areas. And even if there are, talking about them is seen as destructive--not helpful--because, of course, how else can you see the Holocaust but as the evil of Nazism and the victimization of the Jews?

And people, again as Levi points out protect that way of looking at history, because it serves them. In Nelson's view, casting Jews as pure victims sanctifies them, while the reality is that they were human.

Nelson again mentions Levi, who characterized the camp as a "zero-sum game. Obviously, this viewpoint is controversial. In Levi's essay "The Grey Zone," from the book The Drowned and the Saved, Nelson discovered the Sonderkommandos, buried in Holocaust historiography precisely because of people's need to preserve a polarized view of the Holocaust.

Grey Zone, The (United States, 2001)

The Sonderkommandos were Jews who made an astonishing choice. Their Nazi jailers presented them with two inconceivable options: In exchange, they would live an extra four months while enjoying special privileges such as larger quarters, better food, books, alcohol, and cigarettes. They made this choice not because they were evil themselves, but because they were human beings responding to the most basic instinct in all of us: Holocaust films have been made for decades what do you think sets this one apart?

First of all, Tim made a very deliberate effort to make the characters seem as normal and modern as everyone at this table. He expressly had us not prepare Polish, or Hungarian, or Yiddish accents. He said, "First of all, these people would be speaking their own languages, so they wouldn't have an accent, a foreign accent. He wanted you to watch it and say, "Oh, that could be me. Oh, they're too modern--they can't be real.

They're just like us. Where would you stand in this spectrum of responses to atrocity if you were forced to the middle of it, perhaps with a gun to your head? How would you define yourself when you have to make very active choices concerning what you believe in and who you are on the inside? It's not about thought anymore, or words. It's literally life and death situations where you have to commit your entire being, physically, to a decision, to a way to go.

Either you can cave and save your heroism for another day, or you can try to stand up for a cause no matter what the results. I think it's about a human condition under the lens of the Holocaust. I don't think it's really about the uber-Holocaust. I don't think it's about every aspect of World War Two at all.

It's about a very small group of people in an extreme circumstance, and the human spirit--what it's capable of in both directions. The thing about this movie that is very different from the other Holocaust movies I have seen, is it doesn't wrap itself up neatly in the end.

It is not tied up in a little bow for easy consumption. I think that's good. It doesn't send you into things with music It's not at all like a Hollywood movie where you're told by the violins when to cry, whose life was really worth crying over, who's a hero. It's saying there are no heroes or villains here, necessarily.

It's [about] human beings, and what is it to be human.

This one is challenging and respects you as an audience member, and says, "It is ultimately up to you to think about this. We're not going to tell you anything.

We're just going to present the case to you. And I think that's so great. I would love it if more films expected me to think about what they're talking about rather than to tell me at the end--"Now, this is what you should feel about what you just experienced. What was it like working with Harvey Keitel?

I don't know about how Harvey feels about people talking about the process behind the camera, but I hope I don't offend him by what I'm saying, or reveal too much, or whatever but he consciously didn't want any contact with us during the filming. We were all staying in the same hotel, pretty much eating in the same restaurant, so it became this strange dynamic. He'd have his group of people at one table, and all of us would be at another table.

So it was kind of a strange segregation that he enforced. At first it filled me kind of with animosity toward him, which is probably [laughs] a good thing! Then I came to a place where I thought, "What is this? Everyone has to hang out together, get to know each other?

As soon as I starting having scenes with him, I could see how effective his process was, and how it helped me along, although all he was doing it for was his own process.

Then at the end, after it was all done, we all went out to dinner, and he was very gracious, and we talked, and he told some incredible stories.

It was amazing working with him Plus, my character couldn't look him in the eyes. It added to a review of the tim nelsons film the grey zone 2001 performance], not looking at him for three months. Nelson's drive to tell their story springs from his belief that the good-versus-evil analysis of the Holocaust excuses us from examining its human causes and dimensions. What is more basic than that?

This need to survive was co-opted by the Nazis to create a labor force for the extermination of the Jews. When the Sonderkommandos made their choice, they ceased to be purely victims, but they did not cease to be human beings.

That, according to Nelson, is why his film is gray, and not black and white. The movie is about being human more than it's about the Holocaust or Jews. At the center of this film is this impossible, unfathomable moral predicament, which pits, in the individual, the two greatest human forces--the will to live, that as individuals each of us has, and our impulse as a societal animal to reach outside ourselves and work for the betterment of society--of others.

In these Sonderkommandos' predicament, in the choice that was forced upon them, they had to choose. Or do I live by abetting the slaughter of others? Nelson doesn't condemn that choice, but he again points out that those Jews became something less than pure victims. But we're not sanctified victims. Once it was ready to become a movie, Nelson's unusually ambiguous reading of the Holocaust attracted some heavy acting talent. In the film, Sonderkommandos played by Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Daniel Benzali, and David Chandler attempt to redeem themselves by making a desperate effort to save the life of a young girl and to destroy the furnaces with explosives smuggled in by munitions factory workers played by Sorvino and Natasha Lyonne.

At the same time, Dr. Miklos Nyiszli Allan Cordunera Hungarian Jew who assisted with Josef Mengele's infamous experiments and upon whose first-hand accounts the story is largely based, spars with German officer Erich Muhsfeldt Harvey Keitel while struggling to maintain his own humanity.

Though she is not Jewish, Sorvino was attracted to the film because, due to some odd personal circumstances, she had been "kind of obsessed" with Holocaust history from when she was a girl. Her family's housekeeper turned out to be a Neo-Nazi, something that was discovered only after Sorvino, at the age of ten, finished reading The Diary of Anne FrankL. My parents weren't home because my mother was giving birth to my brother at the hospital. There was a housekeeper watching us, and she was a German lady in her forties, and she heard me crying and ran up the stairs, and said, 'Oh, Mira.

Many, many more Germans died than Jews. Only six hundred thousand, not six million, died. I think it happened. It's all lies and manipulations. It didn't really happen this way. And I think she had been in the German youth movement when she was young.

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She had a gun So they found an excuse to get rid of her. To prepare for the part, Sorvino lost twenty pounds at Nelson's insistence.

I was the weight that I was when I was twelve years old. The drastic transformation was also distressing to Bernardo Bertollucci, producer of Sorvino's subsequent project, Triumph of Love.

To prepare, Nelson also required Sorvino and the other actors to read a stack of books. C, says that Eyewitness Auschwitz by Filip Muller, a former Sonderkommando, was particularly helpful.

Like Nelson, Arquette cites Primo Levi as an important influence. A lot of the stuff that Primo Levi wrote was really helpful because he put a beautiful twist on it.

Grey Zone, The (United States, 2001)

You think that this is a completely desolate life that they're leading, and he could somehow find poetry in it He writes in one of the books that there was God in these concentrations camps. Speaking softly and deliberately, almost shyly, Arquette is an uncomfortable interviewee, tending to look at the table beneath him as much as the questioners around him. So, he finally let me do it, and I'm just so grateful.

It's not the typical kind of movie that I do. People don't necessarily expect it.