Fatelessness

June 19, 2009

I just saw this 2005 film thanks to Netflix. I had recently read the book thanks to my friend Sarah.

It’s hard for me to think about the work outside my own history and family. My father is a Hungarian Holocaust survivor. The language speaks to me in the rich sounds of my childhood. Budapest registers on the edges of places that matter to me. The meaning of my Jewishness is as unclear to me as it is to the boy in the film (and the boy who was my father) who is nearly killed for it. But, I tend not to get particularly personal here (oddly, I think, as so much of my scholarly and video work is autobiographical). I’d rather talk about the film (and book) in relation to interests I’ve continued here, about cinematic representations of trauma, revolt and analysis.

What I loved about the book is sentimentally undone in the film. Namely, the book drains the Holocaust narrative of drama, well really melodrama, and retells it as a matter of time and sense-making. Getting through time, making sense of the meaninglessness of illogical violence and suffering. The film script, also written by Imre Kertész, maintains the affectlessness of the willing witness to madness, and Lajos Koltai’s pacing, and images, let things play out where nothing but time (and violence and suffering) seems to matter. It is the Ennio Morricone score that undoes this emptiness, working its melodramatic strains against the flat surfaces of image and language. I think about how documentary can show the fact of things without necessarily attempting to infuse meaningless reality with sentiment, and feel that, again, in this way, fiction film has much to learn from records of the real.

3 Responses to “Fatelessness”


  1. […] all infused meaning into Warhol’s careful attempts at cinematic emptiness (the subject of my last post!) For Fateless, I thought the sentimental music played against the author’s interest in […]


  2. […] of her hyper-abstracted movements (or images) reminds me of my recent attention to questions of  meaning(lessness) and the indexical, and the related role of mise-en-scene. (This was also the subject of […]


  3. […] about another war, the Second World one this time. While I do sometimes pen here about both Holocaust and anti-war cinema, due to reasons both familial and political, neither of those themes will be my […]


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