Monday, October 06, 2014

WWII Drama THE NOTEBOOK Not Worth Noting

Now playing exclusively in the triangle area at the Raleigh Grande:

THE NOTEBOOK (Dir. János Szász, 2013)

As every review surely has to note, this World War II drama is not to be confused with the Nicholas Sparks weeper starring Ryan Gosling from a decade ago. An adaptation of a 1986 novel by Agota Kristof, this NOTEBOOK concerns two 13-year old boys (real-life twin brothers András and László Gyémánt) in 1944 who are sent by their mother (Gyöngyvér Bognár) to live with their grandmother (Piroska Molnár) who resides in the Hungarian countryside not far from a German concentration camp, mind you.

Earlier, the twins were given a blank notebook by their father (Ulrich Matthes), a German officer in Hitler’s army, in which he tells them to “Write down everything that happens.” Throughout out the film we see them add drawings, cut-up photos, and tons of labored text detailing their dreadful existence to its pages.

Molnár, their mean vodka-swigging grandmother, only refers to them as “bastards” as she works them like slaves, starves, and beats them daily. But what’s worse is the pain they inflict on themselves – beating each other with belts while hurling harsh insults, fasting for several days – in order to harden themselves so as to be able to take the abuse without crying.

A neck brace-wearing Nazi officer (Ulrich Thomsen) from the nearby camp moves in to a cottage on their grandmother’s farm, and watches with admiration, and more than a little bit of lust, as the brothers whip each other. Alongside their strenuous self-training, the pair spy on their grandmother and learn where she hides her valuables. They themselves are hiding a stock of grenades that they took from the body of a dead soldier in the woods. They also befriend a neighbor’s thieving daughter (Orsolya Tóth) who they call “Harelip” because of her cleft-lip, and an old friendly shoemaker (János Derzsi) who provides them with new boots.

The Gyémánt twins have piercing stoical stares, and impressively often appear as a singular presence with one mind, but looking into their dead eyes in such dark, drab settings, really took its toll on me over this film’s dragging running time.

So did the extreme unlikability of nearly every character, and the numbing dreariness of the tone, especially embodied in the monotone voice-over narration by whichever twin it is that’s speaking (they are only credited as “One” and “The Other”). 

Of course, there are scores of horrific stories of suffering through wartime, but this one never takes hold or makes you feel as if there's any greater meaning to any of this torture.

It’s a well acted, and well shot film (by cinematographer Christian Berger, a frequent Michael Haneke collaborator), but it’s as cold and grimly detached as the kids are as they beat each other senseless. And definitely don’t go if you are expecting any kind of uplift.

More later...

1 comment:

imran said...

Thanks For The post