To Life


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

"Although the performances are uniformly pitch-perfect Julie Depardieu (centre) shines out as Hélène."

Focusing on three fomer deportees from Auschwitz who meet up for the first time since the war 15 years on at Berck-Plage in northern France in the Sixties, Jean-Jacques Zilbermann’s film is a warm-hearted account of three survivors always conscious they’re lucky to be alive.

Invested with impeccable performances by Julie Depardieu as Hélene (deported just before she turned 20), the pragmatic Lil from Amsterdam (Joanna Ter Steege) and Rose (now living in Québec and played by Suzanne Clément) their common experience unites them in sunny days by the beach, catching up on what has happened to them since the Liberation.

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The mood of the film contrasts perfectly between the dark and painful wartime memories and the mainly joyful aspect of their current loves and lives.

Zilbermann’s fifth feature looks at how the protagonists and society deal with the Holocaust. For the director it was a personal and emotional journey, closely based on his mother’s own experiences in the camps and coping in the aftermath.

Because in some cases inmates had to choose between the life of a friend or relative and their own, the burden of guilt could have destroyed them. As it is the women have managed to come to terms with the memories using a survivor’s sense of humour to demolish the taboos surrounding the Holocaust.

Although the performances are uniformly pitch-perfect Julie Depardieu shines out as Hélène, who takes the initiative to track down her friends and organise the get-together destined to become an annual ritual. At home in Paris she has married a waiter and also a camp survivor (Hippolyte Girardot) who has been traumatised mentally and physically by his experiences. Much to the surprise of her friends she finds physical solace with a younger admirer who runs the children’s beach club.

For these women seizing happiness where they find it will be a key to their futures.

Zilbermann deals with potentially painful themes with subtle strokes and soft-pedalled emotions in a film that will linger long after the end credits.

Reviewed on: 14 Aug 2014
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Loosely based on the story of the director's mother who, years after being in Auschwitz decided to track down two women she had befriended in the camp.

Director: Jean-Jacques Zilbermann

Writer: Odile Barski, Danièle D'Antoni, Jean-Jacques Zilbermann

Starring: Julie Depardieu, Hippolyte Girardot, Anne-Marie Pisani, Mathias Mlekuz, Patrick Ligardes, Maria Pitarresi, Béatrice Michel, Benjamin Wangermee, Maxime Le Garrec, Matthieu Le Garrec, Chelssy Bottier, Audrey Quoturi

Year: 2014

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: France


Locarno 2014

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