×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sarah’s Key

A mostly faithful adaptation of Tatiana de Rosnay's international bestseller.

With:
With: Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frederic Pierrot, Michel Duchaussoy, Dominique Frot, Natasha Mashkevich, Gisele Casadesus, Aidan Quinn, Charlotte Poutrel, George Birt. (French, English, Yiddish dialogue)

An American journalist in contemporary Paris discovers a personal connection to the Vichy regime’s infamous July 16, 1942 roundup and imprisonment of Parisian Jews in “Sarah’s Key,” a mostly faithful adaptation of Tatiana de Rosnay’s international bestseller, from French helmer Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Despite the somewhat stilted “big moments” dramatic style of the period story and the didactics of the contempo frame, the polished-looking Weinstein Co. pickup should appeal to upscale arthouse audiences, as well as anyone who enjoyed the book. French release through UGC begins Oct. 13.

Before this year, the dark part of French WWII history known as the Vel d’Hiv round up was not much dramatized, and as “Sarah’s Key” makes clear, not many people know the details. In France, however, helmer Roselyne Bosch’s “The Round Up” (forthcoming Stateside from Menemsha Films), covering some of the same territory, was a hit release in the spring, pulling in nearly 3,000,000 admissions.

Like the novel, the film alternates between two gradually intertwining stories, both driven by feelings of guilt. In the first, Sarah Starzynski (a fiercely anguished Melusine Mayance), a 10-year-old Jewish girl, tries to save her younger brother by locking him in a secret cupboard just before French police herd her, along with her parents and some 13,000 others, into the Velodrome cycling stadium. In the second tale, journalist Julia Jarmond (the bilingual Kristin Scott Thomas, alternating French with a realistic American accent) learns that her in-laws benefited from the Starzynski’s deportation by acquiring the very apartment that her architect husband (Frederic Pierrot) is currently remodeling.

Viewed through Sarah’s eyes, Paquet-Brenner’s harrowing rendering of the Starzynski’s three days trapped in the stifling, unsanitary confines of the Velodrome and their traumatic separation at the Beaune-la-Roland transit camp is moving and only a little maudlin. Julia’s research for a story about the deportations fills in the statistics.

Obsessed with her brother’s fate, Sarah escapes from the camp, winding up on the doorstep of a sympathetic farming couple (Niels Arestrup, Dominique Frot, both excellent) that take her post-haste to Paris. Meanwhile, Julia’s detective work traces the rest of Sarah’s story.

In a departure from the novel, the screenplay, penned by Serge Joncour and Paquet-Brenner, develops the character of Sarah (Charlotte Poutrel) as an adult. One of the pic’s most quietly poignant scenes takes place between Sarah’s middle-aged son (a fine Aidan Quinn) and her husband (George Birt).

Working in a classical style and genre that rep a far cry from his previous work (“Pretty Things,” “Gomez and Tavares, “UV”), Pacquet-Brenner’s direction is always respectful if never entirely subtle. Showing how some gentiles averted their eyes from the wrong done to the Jews, while others became reluctant heroes, he takes a realistically complex approach to history rather than reducing it to good vs. evil.

Comprising prestige names and unknowns, the ensemble cast acquits itself well. Craft highlights include evocative period production design by Francoise Dupertuis and rich lensing by Pascal Ridao on a Red One camera.

Sarah's Key

France

Production: A UGC (in France)/Weinstein Co. (in U.S.) release of a Hugo Prods., Studio 37, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels, France 2 Cinema production with the support of Region Ile-de-France in association with sofica A Plus Image. (International sales: Kinology, Paris.) Produced by Stephane Marsil. Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Screenplay, Serge Joncour, Pacquet-Brenner, based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay.

Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Pascal Ridao; editor, Herve Schneid; music, Max Richter; production designer, Francoise Dupertuis; costume designer, Eric Perron; sound (Dolby Digital, DTS), Didier Codoul, Bruno Seznec, Alexandre Fleurant, Fabien Devillers. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Gala Presentations), Sept. 14, 2010. Running time: 111 MIN.

With: With: Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frederic Pierrot, Michel Duchaussoy, Dominique Frot, Natasha Mashkevich, Gisele Casadesus, Aidan Quinn, Charlotte Poutrel, George Birt. (French, English, Yiddish dialogue)

More Film

  • Alain Berliner To Direct Cannes-Set ‘Second

    ‘Ma Vie en Rose’s’ Alain Berliner Directs Star Cast in ‘Second to Nun’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Page Three Media and Artemis Productions, which backed “The Danish Girl,” announced in Cannes “Second to Nun,” a new feature from Golden Globe winning director Alain Berliner. Berliner’s decades-ahead-of-its-time “Ma Vie en Rose,” the tale of a young transgender girl with dreams of growing into a mature woman and marrying the boy next door, was [...]

  • Artist Andrew Levitas Tackles Corporate Greed

    Artist Andrew Levitas Tackles Corporate Greed in Johnny Depp Starring 'Minamata'

    Andrew Levitas has carved out a unique place in the art world, having used his considerable skills across multiple creative platforms. A filmmaker, painter, sculptor, producer, writer, actor and photographer, Levitas is also the founder of Metalwork Pictures, a media production company that develops and produces original content, including his 2014 directorial debut, “Lullaby,” as [...]

  • Oliver Laxe

    Cannes: ‘Fire Will Come’s’ Oliver Laxe on Classicism, Avant-Guard, Egos

    CANNES  —    Spain’s Oliver Laxe returns to Cannes for the third time with“Fire Will Come” (O Que Arde), competing in Un Certain Regard— the first time a Galician-language film is selected for Cannes. He has pedigree. His first time round, in 2010, Laxe snagged a Fipresci nod for his Directors’ Fortnight title “You All [...]

  • Gael Garcia Bernal'La Belle Epoque' premiere,

    Gael Garcia Bernal on Cannes Out of Competition Screening ‘Chicuarotes,’ Hope for Mexico

    CANNES  —  There’s a scene right at the beginning of “Chicuarotes,” Gael García Bernal’s second movie as a director, where Cagalera and Moleteco, two teens from the humble San Gregorio Atlapulco district of Mexico City, board a bus in clown’s makeup, and launch into a clumsy comedic sketch. Maybe because it’s delivered in San Gregorio [...]

  • Italy's Notorious Pictures on Buying Spree

    Cannes: Italy's Notorious Pictures on Buying Spree Takes 'Vivarium,' Ups Production (EXCLUSIVE)

    Italian distribution, production, and exhibition company Notorious Pictures is on a buying spree at the Cannes Film Market where they’ve acquired four high-profile titles, including Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots sci-fi-fier “Vivarium,” which world-premiered in Critics’ Week. On the production side the expanding outfit has teamed up with Belgium’s Tarantula Productions on Islamic terrorism thriller [...]

  • Marco Bellocchio The Traitor Cannes

    Director Marco Bellocchio Talks About Cannes Mafia Drama 'The Traitor'

    Cannes veteran Marco Bellocchio’s vast body of work spans from “Fists in the Pockets” (1965) to “Sweet Dreams,” which launched at Directors’ Fortnight in 2016. The auteur known for psychodramas and for bringing the complexities of Italian history, and hypocrisy, to the big screen is back, this time in competition, with “The Traitor,” a biopic [...]

  • Director Tudor Giurgiu on Transylvania Film

    Director Tudor Giurgiu on Transilvania Film Festival Opening Film ‘Parking’

    CANNES–A poet, a romantic, and a stranger in a strange land, Adrian is a Romanian immigrant working as a night watchman at a car dealership in Cordoba. After leaving his old life behind, he falls in love with a Spanish singer who offers him a shot at reinvention. But when a money-making scheme by his [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content