Apt Pupil 1998, Conspiracy 2001, Jacob The Liar 1999, Life is Beautiful 1998, The Pianist 2002, and Valkyrie 2008
A marathon about the Holocaust needs to be epic and personal. All sides need to be brought to the table and exposed to better understand how a situation and event like this occurred and witness the fight to survive and the innocence that occurred during such a horrific situation. A good strategy that introduces the theme of the Holocaust is Bryan Singer's film titled Apt Pupil, showing the Holocaust in present day through the eyes of a young boy befriending a Nazi in his neighborhood. What first begins as blackmail into getting the old man to retell his stories about killing Jewish people in the concentration camps ultimately turns into a psychological battle for control, forcing the two people to maintain their silence. What Apt Pupil sets up for this marathon is it gives insight into the mind of a Nazi war criminal through Ian Mckellen's brilliant performance and Bryan Singer's masterful directing. It also shows how a young boy named Todd played by Brad Renfro can become sucked into the presence of evil, and want to know about how something as horrific as the Holocaust can occur through the eyes of someone who helped execute it. The second film in the lineup represents best possible introduction for the Holocaust going backwards in time to show the meeting that took place in January 1942 called the Wannsee conference in which 15 Nazi officials met at a mansion and came up with the idea of The Final Solution. The critically acclaimed HBO film titled Conspiracy deals with that Wannsee Conference meeting in great detail, showing the key players and how the conversation led towards the Nazi Final Solution phase of the Holocaust. Conspiracy utilizes the talents of Kenneth Branagh, Colin Firth, and Stanley Tucci in three key roles that show the constant struggle over this infamous decision. Conspiracy spends it's entire 96 minute duration of the film mostly in one location but holds the audience interest with the information being tossed around to the audience. The third film in the lineup begins the story arc of the Holocaust through the experience of the Jewish community. Robin William's film Jakob The Liar centers around a Jewish shop keeper named Jakob in 1944 Poland who ends up fabricating stories of the Soviets and the allies moving in on the Germans in hopes of keeping up the spirits of those living in the ghettos and preventing further suicies by the Jewish. While claiming he has a radio that gives him information on the status of the war and pretending to be listening to it in private, he befriends a young Jewish girl who looks up to him as a father figure and finds the news fascinating. The Germans soon learn about these false stories being told throughout the ghettos and seek to find the one responsible for such an act. Jakob The Liar relies on humor and wit to get it's heartfelt and inspirational story across while also leading the lineup into a similar story with even more power to it. Life is Beautiful, winner of three academy awards including best actor in a lead performance for Roberto Benigni and best foreign film, the story centers around an open-minded Jewish librarian and his son becoming victims of the Holocaust. Like Robin Williams character in Jakob The Liar, he uses will, humor and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp. Sometimes criticized for dumbing down a serious topic such as the Holocaust to being too humerous, Life as Beautiful is one of the greatest representations of hope in the face of unflinching terror. Jakob The Liar and Life is Beautiful represent two men who basically seek to shield those they love from the harsh realities that surrounds them. The Pianist, winner of three academy awards including Adrian Brody for his unforgettable performance, centers around a Jewish musician struggling to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto during World War ll. It is here that the theme of survival begins to kick in while also showing a side of Germans that hasn't been unveiled until this film. That side is that not all Germans and Nazis that were loyal to Hitler agreed with his treatment of the Jewish people. Roman Polanski shows this through the subplot of a German soldier befriending and assisting the pianist to safety. The final film in the marathon is the one that brings it all together and is the polar opposite of where everything began with the side of the Nazis revealing that not all of them were like Hitler. Also directed by Bryan Singer who did Apt Pupil and starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie is a recreation of the July 20th assassination plot by German army officers against Adolf Hitler near the end of World War ll. This film works as a grand finish to the theme of the Holocaust because where Apt Pupil shows Ian Mckellen's character having no sympathy for what happened except total justification, Valkyrie reveals that there were those who stood in the face of evil and ultimately refused to bear the shame.
So what are all the films trying to say? Apt Pupil says that an obsession with evil will ultimately run your entire life. Conspiracy shows that some of the most unimaginable decisions can be decided in a such a calm and unphased state. Jakob The Liar says to sacrifice yourself for the good of others. Life is Beautiful says that love will protect and save you. The Pianist says that we must hold onto hope in order to survive even the most horrific circumstances. Valkyrie says that if you know there is evil brewing, its best to stand against it and not bear the shame. Adolf Hitler was an evil person and that not all Germans believed in his idealogies and chose to stand against him.
Our main characters for this evening: