Remember when you were in like sixth grade and your teacher asked you to read Number the Stars and you quietly thought to yourself, "jeez Louise, how many of these Holocaust books are there?" and then you felt terrible and never said anything to anyone? Well I do, and Page Six certainly does! They did a bit today about how there are just so many Holocaust movies this winter. There are a lot!
There's The Reader (Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, sadness), Adam Resurrected (Jeff Goldblum, a fake dog, sadness), Valkyrie (Tom Cruise, eye patch, vague and unplaceable sadness), Defiance (Liev Schrieber, the boy from Billy Elliot, angry sadness), Good (based on a brilliant play about sadness), and the currently running Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Vera Farmiga, child sadness, which is the worst). That is so many! Harvey Weinstein, ultra-producer and Jewish person, says of the genre (can we call it that?): "What a wonderful subject to explore in as many ways as possible. I hope our children get educated about the Holocaust, so it will be 'Never again.'"
And, yeah. I mean, I don't know if we should go around calling it 'wonderful,' but definitely it's a subject that bears as much examination as anyone needs it to. We are talking about a period of only a few years in which the equivalent of the entire population of Ohio was wiped off the face of the Earth, after all. The difference is that some movies, like the treacly and dangerously trivializing Life is Beautiful, use the subject as springboard to something else, something more "personal," more selfish. Some people say please, no more of these movies at all, because they begin to become co-opting novelties for people who've no idea of the actual toll of things, don't know the weight of this all too real history. Then things begin to creep closer to the dark shade of the anti-Semitic (in its pointless exploitation, its marginalizing) umbrella, and the whole effort is woefully derailed.
Doubtless that one of the above films will do some injustice to something, because it's near impossible to cover all the bases fairly. I don't think it will be Good, if the source material is treated correctly. Defiance is about something real that happened that survivors have already responded well to, and that's kind of all that matters. Valkyrie, blech. Who knows about the Goldblum one or Pajamas (though some reviews of that have been scathing). And the question remains open for The Reader, which could be good, with its strong director and actress pedigree, or could be another Sophie's Choice, a listless something about Something, anchored only by a mesmerizing central performance.
But will that be enough?