There have been many Holocaust dramas, but longtime cinematographer Lajos Koltai gives Fateless (in Hungarian and German with English subtitles) a provocative disquieting style, grave filmmaking with a sense of grief and hope.
Many may see similarities to Schindler's List and The Pianist in this harrowing visit to concentration camps like Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Imre Kertesz provides the screenplay, a semi-autobiographical tale from his 1975 novel featuring a brave lead performance from Marcell Nagy.
Nagy vividly takes on Gyuri, a boy whose dad has been remitted to a forced-labor camp from Budapest. The agonized 14-year-old goes by bus rather than train to work from what a neighbor suggests.
Gyuri ends up in Auschwitz with Jewish bus passengers rounded up for deportation. It is all difficult to understand as grim existence is filled with torture and sadism. Koltai doesn't include the standard graphic violent content and barbaric Nazi commandants that the genre has included. One hellish, surreal moment has exhausted inmates swaying to stay on their feet filled with exhaustion and ready to vomit, willing to trade jewelry for a cup of soup.
Fateless proceeds like many quiet vignettes that has more of an ironic, haunting presence to it as Gyuri encounters much fellowship and does what he has to, even after discovering death around him. It has a similar feel to the boldness Steven Spielberg brought to Munich, especially when, at last, the liberated, gaunt, ghost-like Gyuri returns home with the locals reacting one stripped of humanity. How Nagy endows a boy nostalgic for an incomprehensible existence brings something interpretative and philosophical to an experience that is disturbing, but captivating from a sepia-toned lens.