The Round Up – La Rafle (2010) – Operation Spring Breeze or The Round Up of Vel d’Hiv

The French/German/Hungarian co-production, The Round Up – La Rafle, is a powerful and intense movie based on true facts. In the nights of July 16 and 17 13000 Parisian Jews were arrested in a raid in Paris and confined in the Vel d’Hiv (Winter Velodrome) or Drancy internment camp and from there to the extermination camps in Poland. Of the 13000 arrested Jews only 25 survived. Many among them, at least 4000, were children. Not one of them survived. The aim was to round-up 25000 Jews but 10000 escaped and were hidden by the people of Paris. The most shameful part was played by the police who actively contributed to make this happen. French President Jacques Chirac apologized in 1995 for the complicit role that French policemen and civil servants served in the raid.

The movie begins with original black and white footage. We hear Edith Piaf sing “Paris” while we follow Hitler on his tour through the city. That sent shivers down my spine. To think that if the Germans had won the war, Hitler would have made Paris his capital. In the pictures he looked like a guy inspecting real estate, deciding on what walls to knock down, what to keep. Horrifying. Here is an account of Hitler’s tour, written by his pet architect Speer.

After the opening we see people in a Parisian street located in Montmartre. The street scenes show that French and foreign Jews amicably lived together with non-Jewish Parisians. Many French people are friendly towards the Jewish population, but others are openly hostile and hate them. The movie focusses at first on a few Jewish families. It shows how secure they felt. They didn’t think the French government would ever give in. But it did. In exchange for privileges it promised to round-up the Jews and deport them eventually.

After the round-up we see the scenes in the Vel d’Hiv and the point of view changes. A young French nurse, Annette Monnod (Mélanie Laurent), has been sent to help alongside a Jewish doctor (Jean Reno). The doctor and a handful of French nurses are the only health care professionals for 13000 people. There is almost no food, no water, no toilets and the hygiene is abominable. Many of the children are ill. There are doctors willing to come and help but they are not let in. Operation Spring Breeze, as this round-up is called, should be kept a secret. While there are many collaborators among the French, there are many more who are hostile towards the Nazis and willing to risk their lives to save Jews.

Annette becomes very attached to the children and does everything to help them survive. She follows them to camp Beaune where they stay until they are finally deported to Auschwitz. Until the last day many think, they are sent to Poland to work. Rumours that those camps are extermination camps are only spreading very slowly.

I really loved this movie. It moved me, I found it very touching and emotional.  I would say that of all the Holocaust movies I’ve seen, this is my favourite. I liked that it focussed on a few Jewish families with different backgrounds. Some rich French Jews, others immigrants and people who fled from other countries. Those individual stories are more interesting and touching than the story of a mass of deported people. In chosing Annette, a French nurse, we see how far the “good” Parisian people went, risking life and health for others. It’s such a shameful chapter in the history of France, its important to remember that there were courageous people as well.

The only thing I didn’t like so much was the end. It should have been different but I cannot tell you why or I would spoil the movie. Considering how excellent the rest is, this is a minor fault. I added The Round-Up to my Children in War Movies List. It’s an excellent example. Other Holocaust movies can be found here: 13 Holocaust Movies You Should See.

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Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Maybe Inglourious Basterds is a good movie. Maybe it is not. In any case I have hardly seen any other movie being misspelled so often. That’s at least one achievement. “And the Oscar for most misspelled movie goes to…. “.

Inglourious Basterds is in many ways a typical Tarantino. If you don’t like Tarantino, you will probably not like this. It has graphic elements and there are a few moments of shooting gone wild like in any Tarantino. The score is also very Tarantino, although toned down.

The main story of Inglourious Basterds is a retelling of the end of WWII. It’s purely fictionalized and far from historically accurate.

We have different story lines that are all interwoven.

The Basterds are a group of American soldiers led by Lt Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), many of them of Jewish or German origin. They are dropped in Nazi-occupied France to hunt and kill Germans. They either club them to death or take their scalps. Brad Pitt is extremely good in the role of Tennessee-born tough-guy Raine who shows no mercy when it comes to Nazis.

Another story line starts with “the Jew hunter” Col Landa (Christoph Waltz) whom we meet when he is exterminating a family of Jews. One of the daughters, Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) manages to escape. Landa is maybe one of the most annoying film characters ever.

The different story lines come together when Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a German war hero, meets Shosanna aka Emanuelle in Paris where she meanwhile owns a cinema. He plays himself in a movie about his exploits that has been  financed by Goebbels. He tries to convince Shosanna to have the opening in her cinema. It will be an event that the whole of the German high command, including Hitler, will attend.

Many people hear of this event, among them the Basterds. This unique opportunity to have the most important Germans together in one location for an evening gives more than just one group ideas.

At the end all the different storylines come together for an ultimate typically Tarantino finale.

As far as war movies go, this was quite entertaining but not exactly my thing. As far as Tarantino movies go, it could be one of his best. I did like a few elements but was surprised that there are so many scenes that come across like theater scenes and found them actually very boring. Despite the boring elements, it offers strong pictures, some really good ideas and the genre blend is interesting. It is not a movie I liked but I would highly recommend it as it is an original addition to the genre. Tarantino fans will watch it anyway, I guess. There is one thing I really enjoyed and that is how accents were handled. One of the rare movies in which this was handled with perfection. Most of the German actors (they are all internationally acclaimed), are either bilingual or very strong in English which was an asset.