Lajos Koltai has a very sure, directorial hand.
I have a hard time with this film's final summation about the Holocaust.
Fateless is a 140 minute film that tells the story of Gyorgy Koves (Marcell Nagy), a young, Jewish boy who is sent away to the Nazi Concentration camps and manages to survive. Somehow, even through all his suffering he seems to have a mindset that precludes him from dying. It isn't so much a will to live it's just that the unexpected keep cropping up throughout this tale. In the end, Gyorgy is freed from the camps and he comes home to resume his childhood, not realizing how much he and the world around him has changed.
I guess the biggest problem I had with this movie was the sense of numbness that Gyorgy seemed to have. Then again, having never been through something as awful as this character, perhaps being numb and dead inside is the only way to deal with the events depicted in Fateless?
Making of Fateless
In this subtitled segment we find out how Marcell Nagy was found to play the role of Gyorgy Koves. Apparently, director Lajos Koltai saw him on one of the audition tapes and was very taken by what he brought to the role. We also hear from Imre Kertesz who not only wrote the award winning book on which this film was based, but also penned the screenplay as well. While I found Kertesz to be a tad too cerebral for my tastes, I am sure fans of his will appreciate this piece.
Interview with Imre Kertesz
Parts of this interview were actually in the Making of Fateless piece that is on this DVD. As I said before, I find Kertesz to be a bit a cold. While he certainly is quite smart and has very interesting perceptions into not only the subject matter, but the process of writing, I guess I just think he's a bit too existential for my tastes. However, I did find his candor about screenwriting to be refreshing.
4:3 Letterbox Presentation. I have seen few films that look as good as Fateless. Why is it that films like this can come to us from Europe and they never seem to get lost in their artistry? Oftentimes, it seems that when Americans try and make certain period pieces, the problem (at least nowadays) is that the film's stories can't hold up to how nicely composed the film itself is. A lot of this movie feels like it's shot in the shadows as a young boy witnesses various atrocities. Sadly, this tale of Gyorgy Koves losing his youth is something he'll never get back.
5.1 Dolby Digital Surround / Stereo 2.0. As this movie is in Hungarian I spent more time reading the screen than I did paying attention to the audio. Truthfully, I found the music to be pretty typical in it's somber tones. I don't mean that as a knock on this movie but lets be honest, can the score for a Holocaust film ever really be upbeat?
The front cover features Gyorgy Koves with a blue sky and clouds behind him. It seems like he might be shielding his eyes from the sun, or perhaps welcoming the incoming rays. The back offers a bronzed shot of a Gyorgy who has been through the hell of the Concentration Camps. There are a litany of critics quotes, a nicely composed description of what this movie is about, a "DVD Features" list, a cast list and a host of company names that helped make this film possible.
While I usually don't go for films that are elongated tone poems, there is something genuinely ethereal about Fateless. It seems that no matter what the scene is, Lajos Koltai (who is also a celebrated cinematographer in his own right) has instructed his cinematographer, Gyula Pados, to give the film an airy feel. No scene was composed without looking for a way to enhance the shot composition. Even though we know what we are seeing is a movie, amidst all this fantastic photography Koltai has managed to capture a genuine grittiness.
Not for everybody (I'm still on the fence about this movie's ending) Fateless is certainly a film that deserves to be seen.
Fateless was released February 10, 2005.