Last week Andy (my boyfriend) and I went to see THE BOY IN STRIPED PAJAMAS at the Kendall, an art house movie theater in Cambridge, across the river from us in Boston. I can usually lure Andy to see whatever I want at the Kendall because they have great popcorn salt of many different flavors, including barbecue, with the result that both of us ingest more salt than popcorn and have to have drinks when we come out. All in all, it’s a good evening.
THE BOY IN STRIPED PAJAMAS needed no extra salt. I’d read the book as soon as it came out and liked it very much…but I loved the movie. It was like being in a child’s dream of the Holocaust, with all the repetition and sinister undertones that entails. And the ending, which I had not prepared poor Andy for, required that we sit silently in the theater until the lights came up. Even then, we didn’t talk (and those of you who know me know how unusual this is). Andy dropped a kiss on my hair, just one, and I thought that this moment would stand for me when I am an old lady as a symbol of being understood, and of tenderness.
Now Bernhard Schlink’s THE READER is coming out, starring Kate Winslet. During the trailer, there was a shot of Ms Winslet, who plays a German woman, in the bath, and I had the oddest deja-vu–because I would love for Kate Winslet to play the young Anna in the movie version of THOSE WHO SAVE US. With her beautiful, soft, strong European-looking face, Kate is the closest thing we’ve got to Ingrid Bergman these days (she would have been my original pick, but sadly, she is not available).
I am heartened by the emergence of not one but two Holocaust-era movies during this moviegoers’ season, and I wonder if it is because, inconceivable as it is to me, there will come a day not long from now when books and movies are what we have left of survivors? This seems remarkably unfair, that people who survived the Holocaust should not get a free pass to live forever. But their legacy and stories, through art in various forms, will live on
Perhaps this is partly what the movie versions of such good Holocaust-era books signify, that the time still grips the contemporary imagination, and it always will.
So. I am hopeful about the movie version of THOSE WHO SAVE US, enough that I recently stalked Alec Baldwin at a bookstore signing because I want him to play the Obersturmfuhrer. (My essay about the subsequent humiliation will be featured in the Boston Globe’s Sunday magazine on Dec. 14th.) Who would you cast? And do you know filmmakers who wants to make a great Holocaust-era movie? Send ’em my way.