Sunday, April 15, 2012
Underrated Showcase Sundays: The Round Up
Around nine months ago, I had to do some research into the Holocaust, which in turn led to filing through a whole lot of movies on the matter. There was one that particularly interested me: Sarah's Key. What interested me about this one was that it showed an event known as the Vel' d'Hiv Round Up, which occurred in Paris in 1942. This wasn't Germany's doing - it was the French who executed this. What happened was the French decided to take action against the Jews, so they set out to arrest over 20,000 of them one morning. They managed to get just over 13,000, since many Jews were hidden by families in Paris. For the 13,000 that did get arrested, though, they were sent to the Vélodrome d'Hiver - a bicycle veledrome, where there was no bathroom facilities and only one running tap. They were sent there with strict instructions on what they could take (very little), and had to stay in there for three days. After that, they were sent to another camp, before they were deported to Auschwitz. Why am I giving you this history lesson? Because this is the story that is told in the French film The Round Up, which is little seen outside of it's home country.
There's a disclaimer at the beginning of the film saying that everything that happens in it, no matter how extreme, did in fact happen in real life. Of course, it is edited down for the sake of being a movie, and perhaps isn't as extreme as I imagine the real round up was. In fact, I got more out of Sarah's Key very brief retelling of the round up than I did out of an entire movie about the actual event. However, The Round Up delves into several other things, such as the politics behind it, what happens at the camp in between the round up and Auschwitz, and the people trying to offer a hand. It doesn't take one viewpoint, it takes several, making it almost documentary like. You can take a lot of information from this movie, even if it does try to cram a little too much in. Ultimately, that's what starves this film of a true emotional strain. It is a very broad, straight movie, for the most part.
However, the emotional strain is something which I brought to the experience myself. Whenever I do watch a Holocaust movie, I'll be sitting there with angry tears in my eyes and my face hot from the rage boiling under my skin - which is why I find it extremely hard to review these movies. The straightforwardness comes in handy during the scenes of arrests happening, as they aren't coated with the usual Hollywood gloss. Otherwise, I felt distant from this movie, for some odd reason or another - much less involved than I felt during the likes of Schindler's List or Sarah's Key. It descends into displaying glossy sentiment at the end, which was slightly hard to believe (considering what really happened). Nevertheless, I still had some tears in my eyes, even though it was a strangely bright ending surrounded by sadness.
Despite some minor issues, The Round Up was a very solid retelling of history, backed up with some great performances from Jean Reno, Melanie Laurent and Gad Elmaleh. It has a relatively large view-window on an event which creates such a big picture, which is one thing that it has to its advantage over other Holocaust themed movies. It's no Schindler's List, but it is a history lesson worth giving a look.
What I got: