By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Kristen Scott Thomas plays Julia, an American journalist in
Paris who is married to a Frenchman, Bertrand Tezac. In 2002, as the 60th
anniversary of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of Jews in Paris by the French police, Julia wants to
write the story as it has not been told before. Few people realize that thousands
of Jews were sent to the death camps not by the Nazis, but by the French
police. As Julia begins her research, she and her husband and daughter prepare
to move into a Paris flat that has been in the Tezac family for decades. Julia
also discovers that in middle age, she is pregnant.
In July, 1942, the police arrive at the apartment building that houses
several Jewish families. They tell the
families to pack enough for three days and to come with them. Twelve- year-old
Sarah Starzynski pushes her little brother into a closet and tells him not to
move, that she will come back to get him. She locks him in and takes the key.
She and her parents are taken to a popular winter sports arena that is closed
over. For five days more than 13,000 people are locked in without water, food
or toilets. Sarah and another girl, Rachel, escape with the help of a kindly
guard everyone else is transported
to Nazi extermination camps in the east, especially Auschwitz.
Sarah is taken in by a kindly farmer and his family that takes her to
Paris to find her brother. New people
have already moved into the apartment.
It is difficult to tell more of the story without giving key aspects
away, so I will just say that this is a film about life, the extermination of
life, abortion for convenience—that can easily be compared to the
extermination of Jews and others by the Nazis for convenience. Whether or not
the author of the book (French title is “Elle s'appelait
Sarah”), Tatiana de Rosnay,
intended this parallel, I don’t know, but it seemed clear to me. Survivor’s
guilt is also an important topic that taken together with all of the life
themes in the film, offer much to talk about.
More than anything I think the story wants to say: how easily we forget
the crimes against humanity of the past. We need to remember or we are doomed
to repeat them. There are consequences to ignoring or
forgetting history, just as there are consequences to not seeing genocide and
man-made famine in our world today. History in the making. How do we want to be
“Sarah’s Key” is a very moving film that reaches in and takes you by way
of the heart.
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