The late Italian writer Primo Levi was one of 650 Italian Jews who were deported to Auschwitz. He was one of only five to survive.
All of his life he suffered of survivor´s guilt and feelings of shame remembering how much they were degraded. In 1987 he very probably committed suicide. I say probably since it was not 100% established but everything points to it.
Francesco Rosi’s movie The truce aka La tregua is based on the second of those books.
Did you ever wonder what happened to the prisoners of Auschwitz after they had been freed by the Red Army? Being free was one thing but getting back home another one altogether.
Levi´s odyssey brought him first farther away from his home country Italy, to Minsk. You could not just board a train at leisure. The railway lines had mostly been destroyd. And what about food without money in countries whose populations were starving? It takes Primo months until he gets back. He finally arrives after stressful moments of a long and complicated journey, mishaps, dangers but also of joy and rediscovering the beauty of life.
I knew John Turturro from his movies with the Coen brothers where he plays mostly a comical character. This is a very different role but it felt as if it had been created for him. He plays this sad, pensive and gentle intellectual in a very endearing manner.
The last scene shows Primo writing. That’s what he will do from now on, that and working as a chemist. And he will leave two of the most accurate and painful accounts of Auschwitz and the journey home that we have.
People who read the book La tregua criticize the movie relentlessly but I think we should also see it as a homage to a man who had the courage to testify but never really got over the fact to have been one of a very few to survive.
I liked this movie, I really did, probably thanks to Turturro´s soulful acting.
During the last scene of the movie, when we see Primo Levi writing, we hear a voice in the off reading his poem If This is a Man aka Se questo è un uomo.
Please, take a few minutes and read it.
|Voi che vivete sicuri||You who live safe|
|Nelle vostre tiepide case||In your warm houses,|
|voi che trovate tornando a sera||You who find warm food|
|Il cibo caldo e visi amici||And friendly faces when you return home.|
|Considerate se questo è un uomo||Consider if this is a man|
|Che lavora nel fango||Who works in mud,|
|Che non conosce pace||Who knows no peace,|
|Che lotta per mezzo pane||Who fights for a crust of bread,|
|Che muore per un sì o per un no.||Who dies by a yes or a no.|
|Considerate se questa è una donna||Consider if this is a woman|
|Senza capelli e senza nome||Without hair, without name,|
|Senza più forza di ricordare||Without the strength to remember,|
|Vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo||Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,|
|Come una rana d’inverno.||Like a frog in winter.|
|Meditate che questo è stato||Never forget that this has happened.|
|Vi comando queste parole.||Remember these words.|
|Scolpitele nel vostro cuore||Engrave them in your hearts,|
|Stando in casa andando per via||When at home or in the street,|
|Coricandovi alzandovi||When lying down, when getting up.|
|Ripetetele ai vostri figli.||Repeat them to your children.|
|O vi si sfaccia la casa||Or may your houses be destroyed,|
|La malattia vi impedisca||May illness strike you down,|
|I vostri nati torcano il viso da voi||May your offspring turn their faces from you.|