Affecting portrait of a gross betrayal

16:00, Oct 01 2011
Round Up
Children are rounded up by the Nazis.

The Round Up M, 120 mins, three and a half stars

As in Sarah's Key (also released this year), The Round Up uncovers the events surrounding the July 1942 deportation, by the French authorities themselves, of nearly 14,000 Parisian Jews to Nazi concentration camps. This version takes a more traditional cinematic path, staying completely in the era and telling the stories of several characters, from young Protestant nurse Annette (Melanie Laurent) to the ill-fated Weisman family to the Fuhrer himself.

The film is pacy, almost urgent in its establishment of the key characters whose lives we watch with a heavy heart, since we all know the outcome. Initially it feels thinly drawn, as families are set up as happy-go-lucky despite sporting the yellow star that seals their fate. There is much to pack in but this film goes further and shows us the French who betrayed their own people – ordered to fill quotas of deportees whatever the human cost. One false note is in dramatising Hitler, who has become such a caricature it's impossible to portray him authentically (excepting Bruno Ganz in Downfall). That aside, the other performances draw you into the inexorable horror.

With gorgeous photography, delightful children and the universal plight of families separated, The Round Up is affecting and well-crafted.

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