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Sarah's Key (2010) - review

Door Janreviews gepubliceerd op Saturday 30 July 10:55

In July 1942, thousands of French Jews were brought to the Winter Velodrome in Paris by the French authorities to be transported to Nazi camps. When the gendarmes are at the Starzynskis’ door, Sarah Starzynski, ten years old, hides her younger brother in the closet and holds on to the key. The family is brought from the Velodrome to an internment camp outside Paris, where Sarah is separated from her parents. Sarah and another girl manage to escape the camp with the help of one of the guards.

More than sixty years later, Julia Jarmond is planning to move into an apartment of her French husband’s family in Paris. Talking to her grandmother-in-law, she learns that her in-laws moved into that apartment shortly after the Starzynski family was removed from it. Unsure of how to tell her husband, she researches Sarah’s life on her own, becoming detached from her family in the process.

This film deals with many topics: guilt, responsability, oppression, secrecy, conscience, ... It becomes a little too philosophical at times and the pacing gets quite strange in the final thirty minutes or so. When you feel like you’ve reached the conclusion of the story, you look at the clock and see that you still have more than a half hour to go. Still, Sarah’s story is really compelling, so you keep watching.

There is one storyline that could’ve easily been scrapped from the film: Julia’s abortion. It hardly adds anything to the story and feels forced. The film was based on a book, which was based on the actual event, but that storyline should’ve remained in the novel.

This may be due to the fact that I don’t know Kristin Scott Thomas that well, but I never felt like she was acting. The actress who plays Sarah, Mélusine Mayance, is also really good in this film. She didn’t over-act like child actors tend to do and she actually appeared to be a ten-year-old.

Water is a recurring theme in “Sarah’s Key”: the situation at the Winter Velodrome was horrible because it was the middle of the summer and there hardly was running water, the girls float in a pond after their escape from the camp, there is an intense scene with Sarah on the beach staring at the horizon, and so on.

The cinematography was very effective in this film. In the Velodrome, we get a sense of how many people were in there through an overhead panning shot. In the internment camp, we see how alone Sarah is through a shot of her lying on the ground and we see how chaotic and scary the separation was because of the camera being between the people and not every shot being framed perfectly.

I recommend this film, because I think it is important to remember how recent these events are. Although the film has its flaws, the pacing and the abortion storyline mostly, it offers some interesting issues to consider. 

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