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Aryan Couple, The

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UK, 2004, 120 minutes, Colour.
Martin Landau, Judy Parfitt, Kenny Doughty, Caroline Carver, Danny Webb, Christopher Fulford, Stephen Mackintosh.
Directed by John Daly.

This is a very worthy film, another portrait of Jewish suffering during World War II and the appeal that the atrocities not be forgotten.

It begins with a long prologue with the camera tracking into the gate at Auschwitz and then taking the audience into the detail of the camp as it is now (a sober recall for anyone who has visited it). It then has a detailed sequence with Jews being loaded and unloaded under the supervision of Eichmann (Steven Mackintosh).

When the story gets going, we find we are in Hungary in 1944. A Jewish industrialist is being pursued by Eichmann but has been negotiating a deal with Heinrich Himmler: his factories, his homes, his art collection and his wealth in return for his and his wife’s lives and those of their extended family who have all been rounded up and interned. They are to be flown to Switzerland with the hope of passage to Palestine.

The action of the film takes place over little more than 24 hours, highlighting the anguish and diplomacy of the industrialist as well as the anger and resentment of his wife. Himmler is due for dinner that evening for the formal signing of the legal papers.

The Aryan couple of the title are two of the servants in the household, a young married couple, she pregnant, who have stayed in service with the Jewish family – for a secret reason.

The film is well-paced and blends its various sub-plots effectively: the finalisation of the deal with the Nazis, the decisions as to what the Aryan couple will do, Eichmann and his henchman, their fierce anti-Semitism and preying on women and the supreme self-confidence of Himmler, his plans for enriching himself and his dislike of Eichmann.

The performances are also strong. Martin Landau is impressive as the industrialist, near exhaustion with his attempts to save his family, protect his workers, and surrender his property. Judy Parfitt is powerfully determined as his wife. The couple are played by Kenny Doughty and Caroline Carver. Christopher Fulford is convincingly loathsome as Eichmann’s assistant. Danny Webb gives a very persuasive impersonation of Himmler.

Yes, we have seen many similar stories and films. However, this is well-told – and we must not forget.

1. The Holocaust? The films about the Holocaust? The different countries of Eastern Europe? The Jews? The Nazis? The sixty-year tradition of films about the Holocaust and the retrospect of sixty years on the events?

2. The settings, Hungary, 1944, the mansions, industries, the towns? The trains? The glimpses of the concentration camps? Neutral Switzerland? The musical score?

3. The title, its ambiguity, the focus on Ingrid and Hans, their being Jewish, part of the Resistance, their cover as being seen as an Aryan couple? Their documents? The escape, the dangers, the final achievement?

4. The credits sequences, the scenes of Auschwitz, the Jews, the trains, the suffering, water, the arrival, the classification of the prisoners? Life in the camps? The gas chambers? Executions? The Nazi guards?

5. The background with Eichmann, his place in the Final Solution, his contribution? His being in Hungary? The clashes with Himmler? His interviewing people, his interviewing Josef Krauzenberg? His staff? His officers? His intense dedication to his cause? The interrogations, the capture of the Krauzenberg family, the extended family? In his office, the plan for the evening, Himmler outwitting him? His going to the dinner? The toasts? Listening to Himmler and his plans? The escape of the couple, the plane taking off with him seeing it, his sending his officers to pursue the couple?

6. The contrast with Himmler, his position in the Nazi hierarchy, the Europa deal, the wealth of the Jews in exchange for their lives, passage to Palestine? His associate officers? Train travel, arriving in Hungary? The plan to sign the deal with the Krauzenbergs? His looking forward to the meal, bringing his staff, his cooks? His arrival, the polite clashes with Eichmann? His going to the meal, the good manners, the solemnity of the meal, Rachel Krauzenberg and her disdain? The discussion, the signing of the documents? His observing the escape, the extended family going? The continuation of his Europa plan and his own personal enrichment?

7. Hans and Ingrid, the background of the Resistance, the Resistance in Hungary and their activities? Their cover in the household? Their marriage, Ingrid and her pregnancy? Their serving of the Krauzenbergs, the Krauzenbergs not suspecting? The day, the arrival of Himmler’s staff, the preparation for the meal, the food, the cooking? Ingrid and her tension? The unwelcome attentions of Edelhein? Her resisting him? His pursuing her? Her trust in Hans? Hans and his wanting to assassinate Himmler, trying to persuade him not to do this, the consequences and endangerment of others? Their going through the day, the service? The rooms being searched – and her hiding the radio? Exerting some charm to avoid a full search? The officer and the gold, their giving it to him? The gift from the Krauzenbergs? Enough to enable them to begin a future? Their telling the Krauzenbergs the truth, wanting to escape with them? Their final escape, the tensions, the documents from Himmler, the pursuit by Edelhein, the orders of Eichmann? Getting on the train, the journey, the border, their being taken aside? The interrogation, the last-minute phone calls, Edelhein and his arrival, his being shot by orders of Himmler? Their just getting the train, escaping, being reunited with the Krauzenbergs?

8. The background of the Krauzenbergs, Jewish, their wealthy, industry, employment of Jews and Aryans? The loyalty of the staff? The scenes in the factory, in the offices? Krauzenberg and his being taken for interrogation? The imprisonment of the extended family, their reliance on him? His urbane manner, the dignity of the meal? As a character, saving his family? His response to Hans and Ingrid? The contrast with Rachel, her liking for the couple, her disdain of the Nazis, in the town, her behaviour towards them, affronting them? Her manner at the table, her not wanting to be seen to be colluding? The restraint of her husband?

9. The extended family, their dependence on Krauzenberg, his negotiating their freedom, everybody going to the airport, the boarding of the plane, their gratitude towards Joseph?

10. Edelhein, savage, his pursuit of Ingrid, his brutality, the attempted rape? His continued pursuit, Eichmann’s orders, his being shot?

11. The German officer who took the gold, enabled the couple to escape? The contrast with the ordinary German soldiers – especially at the roadblock, and the friendly man who remembered his family at home being shot?

12. A popular presentation of Holocaust themes? The plight of the Jews in Europe? The preliminaries to the state of Palestine? And insightful film? An emotional film?

Created by: coffey last modification: Monday 27 of April, 2009 [03:00:41 UTC] by malone

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