FILM NOTE -- Sarah's Key, directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frederic Pierrot
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Sarah's Key contains some of the most powerful, heart-wrenching scenes ever filmed -- and this is not sensationalism, but truth. This film is important for making everyone aware of a particularly horrific episode in France during World War II and -- if you didn’t know -- what human beings are capable of, for ill as well as for good.
Based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, Elle s’appelait Sarah, “her name was Sarah,” this is an unsparing account of the Vel’ d’Hiv' Roundup in which tens of thousands of Jews were literally pulled from their homes to be sent to their deaths in concentration camps. The Starzynski family is being dragged away but Sarah, 10 years old (Melusine Mayance), manages to hide her younger brother in a wardrobe, taking the key with her as she, her mother and father are brutally transported to the Velodrome d’Hiver stadium -- hence the name Vel' d'Hiv'. With the unflinching realism of a great documentary, we see the thousands of people of all ages held there for days without access to food, water or toilets. Here is Hell on Earth.
Surely it can’t get any worse but it does as the men are violently separated from their wives and children and then -- can it get worse than that? -- the children under 12, Sarah, feverishly ill, among them -- are literally torn from the arms of their mothers. These police are not Nazis but French functionaries of the wartime Vichy government that cooperated with the Nazis, which makes no difference in their level of brutality.
Through it all, separated from her brother, her father, and her mother, Sarah, ill, alone in a children's concentration camp, is totally focused on getting back to her brotherl and unlock the closet. With astonishingly daring, she escapes with another girl from the barbed wire...
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