22 August 2011


Last week, following a strong recommendation from Oldham Mike, I went to The Showroom cinema near our city's main railway station to see "Sarah's Key" based on the novel of the same name by Tatiana De Rosnay and directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner. I was not disappointed. Starring Kristin Scott-Thomas as an investigative magazine reporter, the film explores what is for France a veiled and embarrassing episode in the history of World War Two.

In the summer of 1942, under the instructions of the Nazis, Parisian police herded up over thirteen thousand members of the Jewish faith and held them in disgustingly inhumane conditions in an old velodrome until arrangements could be made to ship them away to death camps. One of those Jews was a little girl called Sarah who, sensing the danger at her family's door, instinctively locked her little brother in a secret wardrobe to keep him safe and took away the key.

I loved the way the film moved frequently from the desperation of wartime to the present day and the magazine reporter's pursuit of the truth. There was an interesting mingling of lives - as if somehow what happened in the past had infected the present with repercussions still hovering around like a fusty aroma.

It was a tender film containing a range of human emotions - from fear to selflessness and from joy to utter disbelief. At one level you are confronted with the horror of what human beings are still capable of doing in wartime and at another level you recognise the essential goodness to be found in people - in Sarah, the farming family who adopted her and in Scott-Thomas's character - Julia Jamond.

This was a film with depth. It held my attention throughout as a good film should. There were about thirty people in the screening I attended and unusually, everybody stayed in their seats until the credits were over. "Sarah's Key" - I recommend it wholeheartedly. And thanks to Oldham Mike for pointing me towards it.


  1. Was the book written by a French person, or is it about France from someone else's point of view?

  2. There has been a few films about this subject recently
    just watched the french movie "La rafle." aka The round up
    your movie sounds better

  3. JAN B The writer is essentially French but with Russian and English ancestors too. She was born in Paris. I believe she explored this subject because she herself felt the hurt and the embarrassment.
    JOHN GRAY "The Guardian" reviewer saw both films and appreciated "Sarah's Key" far more. It should be screened in the Trelawnyd Odeon some time in 2018!

  4. For a moment there I thought this was going to be a docu-drama about Cecil Parkinson's bit of fluff.

    I recently read a review of La rafle that John mentioned and it does seem that the French are beginning to acknowledge a shameful piece of their history.


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