Direction: Barry Levinson
With: Ben Foster, Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard, Danny DeVito
First: July 15th
The survivor is a depiction of the Holocaust by director Barry Levinson, who in his time gave us rain man, Walk the dog and Bugsy. The film is based on a true story of boxer Harry Haft who had to entertain prison guards in concentration camps through bloody fights. After the war, he searches for the great love of his life that was ripped from him and tries to find his way back to himself and his humanity.
The survivor is seemingly hyper-conventional purely narrative, and the opening structure makes it feel like you can predict what’s next without effort. That’s not to say there aren’t surprises along the way, and the movie adopts a looser, more unpredictable structure along the way, which is far more flattering for a movie that’s largely about unexpected paths that life can take.
The acting is undeniably world-class, with Ben Foster undergoing an impressive physical transformation in the war scenes and an incredible Vicky Krieps (who is fabulous at just about everything she does). It is thanks to these role interpretations that the film works despite somewhat clumsy and stereotyped dramaturgical choices that compromise the artistic quality. The film contains striking visual sequences from the concentration camp and is beautifully shot, if a bit too smooth, in both black and white and color. The period expression is certainly saturated, but an effort has clearly been made to keep the costume design and production relatively authentic. It’s not completely successful in any way, but there’s nothing sticking out like a thorn in the side beyond the nailing of the tiles on the details.
The survivor is an engaging journey into the inner workings of trauma. Above all, it’s a story about the choices people make when exposed to inhumane conditions, if there really is a choice, and how to live with it in the future.
Ida Catherine Holme Nielsen
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