THE END OF THE AFFAIR. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE END OF THE AFFAIR. (1999) BASED ON THE BOOK BY GRAHAM GREENE.
WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY NEIL JORDAN.
STARRING JULIANNE MOORE, RALPH FIENNES, STEPHEN REA, JASON ISAACS, JAMES BOLAM AND IAN HART.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Love doesn’t end, just because we don’t see each other.’

I love this film, characterised by gorgeous scenes of endless heavy rainfall in post-war Britain and a rather spiffing shot of Ralph Fiennes bare backside captured splendidly in mid-coitus. Phwoar. The more I see of this guy, the more I fancy him.  

I saw the film on the big screen back in 1999 when it was first released. I’ve had fond memories of it ever since, though it certainly wouldn’t appeal to lovers of action movies as it’s quite slow. That suits me though, being quite a slow-moving person myself, lol.

There’s a bit too much religion in it; that’s possibly the only aspect of the film I didn’t enjoy, but otherwise, it’s as damn near perfect as anything else you’ll see. It’ll appeal to fans of history and thwarted love affairs, heavy rainfall in cinema and Ralph Fiennes’s lovely bare arse doing the old in-out, in-out. What’s not to love?

Ralph- that’s ‘Rafe’ to you!- plays Maurice Bendrix, a moderately successful English novelist in wartime and post-wartime Britain. Well, he’s had one of his books made into a film, so, if that’s moderate success, I’ll have some, please. Beats obscurity and starving in the proverbial garret any day!

Anyway, one rainy night after the war, Maurice bumps into Henry Miles (Stephen Rea), a politician with whose wife, the beautiful Sarah, Maurice had a raging affair during the war.

Seeing the cuckolded Henry again encourages Maurice to re-kindle his acquaintance- and romance- with Sarah, subtly played by Julianne Moore. It’s not difficult to fool poor Henry, Gawd bless his naive, too-trusting buttons.

If ever a man was downbeat, downtrodden and expecting to be made a fool of, it’s poor old Henry. Maurice and Sarah are taking the actual piss by the way in which they practically have sex under Henry’s nose and get away with it. Even in Henry’s own house, on Henry’s own couch, of all places…!

Henry needs to grow a pair, seriously, but I think Henry thinks he’s punching above his weight in marrying Sarah, and is therefore grateful that she consents to stay married to him while still having her little affairs.

Anyway, Maurice has always wondered why Sarah broke off her affair with him during the war years, when London was having the bejeesus bombed out of her by nasty Uncle Adolf and Company; now, in 1946, having inveigled his way back into Sarah and Henry’s lives again quite by chance, he might just finally get to find out.

Three members of the eventual cast of the Harry Potter films are to be found here; Ralph Fiennes as Maurice/Lord Voldemort; Jason Isaacs as the rather surplus to requirements priest/Lucius Malfoy and Ian Hart as the private eye Parkis/Professor Quirrell from HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE.

I disliked intensely the attempt to make Julianne Moore’s character Sarah into some kind of a saint at the end. As the friend with whom I recently re-watched the film pronounced uncompromisingly, she wasn’t a saint, she was a shameless and adulterous slag. I don’t mean to slut-shame, by the way, lol. I’m just telling it like it is.

I love this film, a rain-spattered, doomed wartime romance- positively the best kind of doomed romance there is!- and I have particularly fond memories of watching it in the cinema, so it’ll always get a thumbs-up from me. Women will probably relish all the soul-searching and nudie Ralph Fiennes; insensitive males will more than likely just switch over and watch the footy. Their loss, folks…       

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

COLETTE, OR PRISONERS OF AUSCHWITZ. (2013) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

COLETTE, OR PRISONER OF AUSCHWITZ. (2013) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘A GIRL FROM ANTWERP’ BY ARNOLD LUSTIG. DIRECTED BY MILAN CIESLAR. STARRING CLEMENCE THIOLY, JIRI MADL AND ERIC BOUWER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an excellent, well-acted and well-scripted Holocaust movie, based on the concentration camp experiences of Arnost Lustig, the Czech Jewish author. It’s the story of two lovers, Colette and Vili, who meet in Auschwitz, one of the Third Reich’s most hellish places of detention in World War Two.

Three of the main actors seemed to be to be dead ringers for existing celebrities. Colette, the main girl, is the image of Winona Ryder when ze Nazis cut her hair. The miniscule Vili ‘Half-Pint’ Feld looks like Ross Kemp, aka Grant Mitchell from EASTENDERS, and one of the lady kapos is a doppelganger for Cate LORD OF THE RINGS Blanchett. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the fim or anything, it’s just funny to have so many of the actors look like other more famous mainstream actors, lol.

Anyway, Auschwitz as you may know was part labour camp and part extermination centre for any Jews, Roma gypsies, homosexuals and other so-called ‘sexual deviants’ and ‘enemies of the Reich’ unfortunate enough to come within the Nazis’ remit, as it were.

As well as the work done for German industrialists and notorious Jew-haters IG Farben (they hated Jews but used thousands of Jewish concentration camp inmates as slave labour during the war), Auschwitz also generated its own work in relation to the gassings of the millions of prisoners that went on there, and this is where Vili and Colette, a beautiful Belgian Jew, come in.

New arrivals to the camp ‘selected’ for extermination had to be herded together naked into the ‘shower rooms’ for ‘bath and inhalation,’ and their clothes, belongings and even hair ‘processed’ by other prisoners, who would be allowed to live as long as they were useful to the Nazis and had this essential function to fulfil.

Vili worked at sorting out the belongings (we know that rooms and rooms were filled from floor to ceiling with spectacles, shoes and photographs of loved ones amongst other things stolen from those wrongly condemned to death) of the ill-fated Jews, running here, there and everywhere across the camp with blankets filled with material goods.

Sometimes the prisoners might find food amongst the belongings of the dead, bread, chocolate bars and jars of preserves, and this would help keep them alive for a little longer. Working with the possessions of dead Jews was a privileged position compared to some you could be allotted in the camp (latrine detail was to be avoided at all costs, along with rock-breaking in the quarries), because you never knew what goodies you could find.

A piece of jewellery you could secrete away somewhere safe, and then use it as a bribe for one of the kapos to keep you alive for one more day. Everyone in Auschwitz, staff and prisoners alike, was on the make and on the fiddle, and underhanded deals like this were practically the lifeblood of the camp.

(Remember in the movie Schindler’s List, where Schindler offers diamonds to Rudolf Hoess, the Auschwitz camp commandant, in exchange for some of Schindler’s workers, who were accidentally put on the wrong train and sent to Auschwitz instead of somewhere slightly better? He takes ’em, too!)

On the other hand, to be caught with such contraband on your person was a killing offence. The Germans were fanatical about prisoners not being allowed to ‘steal from the Reich,’ even though the Nazis themselves stole so much from the Jews in their clutches. The irony, huh?

Colette is put to work going through the Jews’ clothing, searching it for jewellery, money and other belongings. They used razors and sharp knives to slit the seams of the garments, because people sometimes secreted their valuables in their seams.

She even comes across her own handbag in the process, which contains her only photo of her family, her mother, her father, her two sisters and the family dog. She tries to keep the photograph, but the kapo (supervisor) is watching her so she has to relinquish it, add it reluctantly to the pile.

The main thing about Colette in the film is that she catches the eye (and more than just his eye!) of one of the SS men in the camp. Weissacker is young and blond and arrogant, and he has a real thing for Colette.

As a person, he’s immature and acts like a spoilt child. He sees something he likes, he has to have it. If he breaks it, well, too bad. He’ll chuck it on the scrapheap and find something new to play with.

Weissacker has rough, selfish sex with Colette while calling her horrible names (‘Swallow my Aryan load, you filthy Jewish whore, you know you want it,’ that kind of nice loving pillow talk), and their union has a not-altogether-surprising result, a result that ultimately turns out to be quite significant in the love story of Colette and Vili later on.

The whole narrative is book-ended by the story of a Jewish author in the ‘Seventies who has spent years desperately trying to find Colette, the woman he loved with all his heart and soul in Auschwitz.

They even got to make love a few times, thanks to their bribing of one of the kapos. (Colette has such appeal for the staff of Auschwitz that she even has to give oral sex to a female kapo in exchange for connubial visits with the pint-sized Vili. Sex was a commodity, as much as food or diamonds, and could be used very successfully as such if you used it well.)

I love the gigantic Fritz, played by Andrej Hryc, who gets to have it away with the Cate Blanchett-lookalike kapo. Clearly she likes a nice big powerful older man too when it comes to nookie, lol, the same as myself. Overall, a great film, although the subject matter is of necessity grim. Perfect viewing for the last few dwindling hours of 2020. Happy New Year, everyone.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. 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, women’s 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: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR: THE 1987 AND 2018 FILM VERSIONS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR: THE 1987 AND 2018 FILMS.

ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR. (1987) DIRECTED BY JACK GOLD. STARRING RUTGER HAUER, JOANNA PACULA, ALAN ARKIN AND HARTMUT BECKER.

ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR. (2018) DIRECTED BY KONSTANTIN KHABENSKY. STARRING CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT, KONSTANTIN KHABENSKY AND FELICE JANKELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Both these films are based on actual events. On the fourteenth of October 1943, an uprising occurred in the Nazi extermination camp known as Sobibor, in which a core group of prisoners killed a number of SS guards and fled the camp through the main gate, along with most of the rest of the inmates.

The group of organisers and leaders consisted of Jewish prisoners who’d been in the camp for a while, led by a quiet, unassuming man called Leon Feldhendler, and Russian Jewish POWs, led by Alexander ‘Sasha’ Pechersky.

In the 2018 film, Sasha Pechersky is so quiet and unassuming himself and so realistically dirt-covered that it took me ages to figure out just which character he is. There’s no mistaking him in the 1987 film, lol.

Here he’s played by the tall, blonde handsome Rutger Hauer, and he marches confidently into the camp with his fellow POWs about halfway through the movie and immediately starts looking for a means of escape.

Sobibor was an extermination camp, one of several employed by Nazi Germany to rid themselves of the ‘undesirables’ of Europe; mostly Jews, of whom six million died in the Second World War, but also homosexuals, Roma Gypsies, political troublemakers and insurgents, and generally people considered to be ‘enemies of the Reich.’

The ‘procedure’ for ‘receiving’ prisoners at Sobibor is well laid out in both films. A train full of hungry, thirsty terrified Jews, chug-chug-chugs into Sobibor station, to be greeted by hordes of SS men with vicious dogs on leads and scores of Sonderkommando.

These last were Jewish prisoners permitted to stay alive only because they manned the crematoria and disposed of the bodies after gassing. They were the men in the ‘striped pyjamas,’ who knew full well that their days were numbered too and that, as soon as they’d outlived their usefulness to the SS, they’d be killed also. It was a nightmarish existence.

A pretence was maintained at the station, however, that all was well and there was nothing to be at all worried about. A voice on a PA system repeats words to exactly that effect on repeat. ‘Welcome to your new lives. You will be given useful work here and will be fed and warm. The separation of men and women is only temporary. Please don’t be alarmed. You will be re-united later, once we’ve assigned you your barracks.’ An orchestra comprising prisoners and stationed on the ramp plays classical music to make the new arrivals feel at home.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, because of outbreaks of typhus in the concentration camp system, the new inmates, the ones without useful trades who’ve all been safely stood to one side by now, will have to take a ‘shower’ first, before being integrated into the camp.

Well, that’s not so bad, murmured the new arrivals. Maybe things won’t be so bad here after all. The women and children and old folks say cheerio for now to the younger, stronger, healthier men and women left on the station ramp, and are chivvied along the forest path to the gas chambers and crematoria, never to return…

The 2018 film shows us the frightened, naked young women with their hair cut short being ushered into the gas chambers by young soldiers with guns. The heavy door clangs shut with a resounding finality.

The gas is switched on by the young man outside the door. A moment or two of puzzlement, bewilderment on the part of the women, and then they start vomiting, coughing, struggling to breathe. A powerful scene, but emotionally very hard to watch.

Both films show first the disbelief, then the anger, rage and desire for revenge in the young boys and older men who’ve survived the selection, when they first realise that their whole entire families have been murdered in the camp’s gas chambers, and they are now possibly the sole survivors.

Many of these young lads played an active part in the uprising, even killing SS men when they had to. ‘You’ve turned the Jews into killers,’ mutters one such boy in the 2018 film to the SS man he’s just killed. Killing would never have been in the natures of most of these men, but needs must when the devil drives…

The men and women who’ve survived the initial selection on the ramp are put to work at the trades that saved their lives, trades such as shoe-maker, leather worker, seamstress, tailor, jeweller, goldsmith and so on.

Other prisoners will be put to work sorting the belongings of the dead Jews. The Germans were notoriously greedy and the stuff they stole from their captives would fill, and probably have filled, several museums of remembrance.

They even took the women’s hair and stuffed mattresses and pillows with it, and one of the worst jobs of the Sonderkommando was to pull the gold teeth from the mouths of the dead with pliers. The gold was melted down, often to make trinkets for the SS. How greedy, how petty, how unnatural was that?

Even the bones that remained after cremation were used as fertiliser, to enrich the fields and crops of the Reich. How clever they must have thought themselves, these Nazis: there’s not a bit of the Jew that can’t be put to work for the Fuhrer!

Rutger Hauer as Sasha is by far the most dominant, most charismatic and most handsome (lol) character in the 1987 film. I cried when he tells Joanna Pacula (GORKY PARK, 1983), who plays his ‘pretend’ girlfriend Luka, that he can’t be with her the way she wants because he has a wife and child back home in Russia whom he loves very much.

She can’t stop loving him, though, naturally (in all fairness, you’d need a heart of stone not to love him), and the film tells us that the shirt she gives him to wear for good luck on the day of the uprising is today displayed in a war museum somewhere.

Hartmut Becker is excellent, too, in the 1987 film as the sadistic Nazi Gustav Wagner, whose cruelty to the inmates was legendary. He came up with some really nasty ways to make the inmates as a whole pay for the actions of a few escapees, and I think we can be fairly confident that, when he was found dead with a knife in his chest in Sao Paulo in 1980, it wasn’t his own hand who’d inflicted the death blow, as his solicitor tried to maintain…

Highlights in the 2018 film include the first killing of an SS man on the day of the uprising. Can a man’s face really end up looking like that? Not usually outside of horror movies…!

Also, there’s Christopher Lambert (HIGHLANDER, GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES) as war criminal Karl Frenzel rather inappropriately telling a roomful of captive Jews that he was once in love with a beautiful Jewish girl but his father put paid to the romance. Our hearts aren’t exactly bleeding for you, Frenzel, you lunatic, you.

Also, possibly the most disturbing scene in the newer film is the one in which the blind-drunk SS hold a bacchanal in front of the Jews, who’ve been kneeling on the appel-platz since roll-call, starving and exhausted.

Trigger happy, shooting indiscriminately, whipping inmates for fun, harnessing inmates to carts and racing them, boozing till they puke, Hitler’s precious SS show themselves up in this disgusting orgy of out-of-control violence to be what they really are, a loutish, drunken raggle-taggle bunch of thugs and bullies, with neither dignity nor decency.

I prefer the 1987 film because it’s got more heart, more warmth and more Rutger Hauer, but both films are well worth a watch. I’m dedicating this review to my mate Caroline, who adores Rutger Hauer, and I want to wish a happy Christmas and a happy, healthy (hopefully COVID-free!) and peaceful New Year to Caroline, Gary and all my lovely loyal readers.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. 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, women’s 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: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.