The Grey Zone

The Grey Zone ★★★★½

The Grey Zone is the most hopeless and despairing of Holocaust concentration camp docudramas set at Auschwitz, just unremittingly bleak. And yet the story is astonishing and important. At the camp, the Nazis employ groups of Jewish prisoners known as Sonderkommando to lead their fellow people into the gas chambers, in exchange for food and drink privileges, with the promise of a few more months of life. Two things happen: A young teen girl miraculously survives the gas chambers (smothered by other bodies, she didn’t breathe in the toxins). Secondly, there is a suicide mission as part of a resistance group to blow up the crematoriums, which if pulled off they believe will then slow down the speed rate of genocide for future captives. With David Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Mira Sorvino and Harvey Keitel. Tim Blake Nelson, primarily an actor, directed fearlessly and wrote dialogue that propels you into deep hypothetical contemplation.

Critics lambasted the stylized philosophical dialogue that happens between camp inmates. I say that this is how people in life and death matters would speak if they poured their heart and soul into their words. “The Pianist,” the worthy and great WWII film by Roman Polanski, won three Oscars that year and had an ultimately triumphant tale that overshadowed this Tim Blake Nelson film. But in truth, this is now the Holocaust film that haunts as much as “Schindler’s List.”

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