THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER aka THE WARSAW GHETTO. (2009) DIRECTED BY JOHN KENT HARRISON. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE MOTHER OF THE HOLOCAUST CHILDREN’ BY ANNA MIESZKOWSKA.
STARRING ANNA PAQUIN, MARCIA GAY HARDEN, GORAN VISNJIC AND STEVE SPEIRS. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a surprisingly good made-for-television movie about one of the darkest periods in human history, the Holocaust, and one of the landscapes where the Holocaust took place, the Warsaw Ghetto. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were hounded and hunted into an area of German-occupied Poland, ie, this ghetto, that was too small for their huge numbers and where disease and starvation flourished.
It was from this infamous space that thousands of Jews were shoved onto cattle trucks and trains and sent off for so-called ‘re-settlement in the East,’ which we of course know now meant death by gassing in Treblinka or the other death camps.
This film has been likened to Steven Spielberg’s SCHINDLER’S LIST but in reality, it doesn’t come close to capturing the life of chaos, terror, deprivation and random executions that the Jews lived in this hell-hole. It does try hard, however, and I found it both entertaining and enjoyable, if one could ever be said to ‘enjoy’ a film about such a grim subject.
Anna Paquin seems to have recovered by now from the trauma of starring in a film which saw a naked Harvey Keitel being the direct cause of Paquin’s screen mother Holly Hunter having one of her fingers chopped off by an enraged and hearetbroken Sam Neill.
That’s Jane Campion’s exquisite film THE PIANO I’m referring to here, of course. Anna Paquin is now known for getting her own kit off as well in the hugely successful- and sexy!- HBO vampire drama TRUE BLOOD.
THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER, based on a true story, sees Anna Paquin playing a real-life Polish social worker who safely smuggled 2, 500 children out of the accursed Warsaw Ghetto during World War Two.
Her invalid mother is played in a nice understated way by Marcia Gay Harden, who once portrayed a religious nut trapped in a supermarket in the excellent film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, THE MIST.
Anyway, Irena is appalled at the sheer scale of the suffering in the Ghetto. With several families crammed into the one room, with limited food and sanitation facilities, many Jews began to take on a gaunt and bedraggled-looking physical appearance.
This suited the Germans down to the ground, of course, as it only helped to perpetuate the myth that the Jews were dirty, lice-ridden creatures ripe with disease who should be exterminated like vermin.
In fact, typhus was one of the perils Irena had to face as she went into the Ghetto time and time again and came out with small children whom she placed with Polish families for ‘safe-keeping,’ as it were. The distress of the mothers who are having to part with their precious children in order to better ensure a future for them is shown very realistically here.
Stefan, Irena’s handsome dark-haired Jewish boyfriend and partner-in-crime, as it were, looks like Phil Dunphy from TV sitcom MODERN FAMILY. I’m just saying, haha. I loved Piotr, her big burly helper who shared the risks and the burden equally with Irena. I sure could use someone like him to muck in around the house.
I wonder if he survived the war, and how many of the children did as well? Have there ever been any reunions of the children saved by Irena Sendler, like we know there have been of the people now known as ‘Schindler’s Jews?’ It’d certainly be interesting to find out.
The bit where Irena is taken by the Gestapo and tortured is flippin’ terrifying, the tensest and scariest part of the whole film. The film is billed as a 12s, but I wouldn’t show those scenes to a twelve-year-old, especially if they’re in any way sensitive in nature.
This film, light on Nazis and concentrating mainly on Irena’s mission and the kiddies she saved, is an excellent tribute to the woman who smuggled so many children to safety right under the very noses of the leather-coated and jackbooted Gestapo.
The real-life Irena, who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 when she was actually still alive, appears in person for a moment at the end of the film talking about those long-ago but still relevant days, which is a lovely touch.
It might be a movie spoiler to say that our heroine went on to live a long and hopefully happy life after that terrible period in history was over, but if anyone ever deserved to, it was surely Irena Sendler. The film adds another layer, as it were, to our knowledge of what went on in German-occupied countries during the war and, for that alone if for nothing else, it’s worth watching.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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