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Czechoslovakia, 1963 (MIFF 1964)

Director: ZbynÄ› Brynych

This production covers twenty four hours in the Czech ghetto of Theresienstadt, depicting the events and procedures before the departure of another transpoit for Auschwitz. The action involves various Jewish individuals and SS policemen; yet this isn't just another concentration camp film.

Theresienstadt was a 'model camp' of the Nazis who cynically referred to it as a 'town which the Fuhrer donated to the Jews'. Here the inmates had 'a relativelj good time'. There were no gas chambers and the Jews even had their own administration banks and stores. It was a camp that was open to neutral inspection. In the film the arrival of representatives of the Danish Red Cross is expected momentarily. But the SS leaders do not reveal that Theresienstadt was only a waiting camp.

All the locations are authentic and the different nationals speak their own language which lends the film a strong documentary flavour. The director has caught the depressing monotony of the camp life with great skill, used economy in the narrative and etched his characters subtly but firmly. There is no overt brutality, not one scene of violence. The arrogance of the Nazis is shown in the relationship between the SS guards and their captives: the Jews are treated with a cold efficiency: they are ordered around, counted, classified as if they were a herd of unruly sheep — but without hate, after all, they are only animals

The directional assurance, technical skill and Jan Cunk's outstanding camerawork is further enhanced by a series of excellently acted character cameos.

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