“The Notebook” (2014)
War is hell and not just for the people fighting the war. War takes its toll on families left behind as well. During World War II it was common to send the children out of the city, to what their families thought was the safety of the country. The twins (László and András Gyémánt) live in a nice, comfortable home with their mother (Gyöngyvér Bognár) and their father (Ulrich Matthes), a German officer in Hitler’s army. The night that the father is going to be shipped out, they tell the twins that they are going to live with their grandmother, someone the boys didn’t know existed. Before he leaves, the father gives the twins a notebook, telling them to fill it up with everything that they do. The father promises the boys that he will see them again to read their notebook upon his return.READ MORE: NYC Is Celebrating Christopher Wallace A.K.A Biggie Smalls' 50th Birthday Big
The mother takes the boys by train to Hungary. The boys are horrified that their mother is going to leave them with their grandmother (Piroska Molnár). She lives alone on a small farm that has seen better days. Feeling abandoned by their parents, the boys refuse to do any work around the house, and the grandmother locks them out of the house overnight to punish them. They find out that their grandmother is a mean, lonely woman whose only joy seems to come from hitting the twins with her washcloth or her hand. The twins soon learn that this isn’t Germany and that they are outsiders, considered scum by the townspeople, who look for any reason to take their frustrations out on the boys. The twins decide that if they are going to survive till their parents come back, that will have to toughen up and depend on only each other.
This is a stark, brutal look at the effects of war on the people left behind and what man will do just to survive. It’s a film difficult to watch because the twins are put through some ugly, horrific tests of their will and their love for each other. The film holds no punches, and you cringe at some of the scenes that twins are put through, including molestation and severe beatings. One of the most troubling scenes is as the two boys beat each other to the point of exhaustion, all the while calling each other every name in the book. Rarely are the boys shown kindness, as it seems even their grandmother can only give them grudging respect after they continually stand up to her. Only a Jewish shoemaker, who takes pity on the boys, giving them boots in the dead of winter, and a German officer who visits on the weekends, coming in from commanding the local concentration camp, show any interest in the twins. But it seems the Officer may have other intentions as he has a tendency to show up by the boy’s bed in the middle of the night.
Contrasting the horrible scenes that unfold, it’s a beautiful film to watch. The film at times feels like a black-and-white film, with the incredible whiteness of the snow contrasting with the dark leafless trees, and soot covered homes. Credit cinematographer Christian Berger with creating some breathing taking shots in the film. There is an amazing scene shot from above and behind as a formation of Jews are marched through the heart of the town, on their way to the concentration camp. It’s a heart-breaking scene as they stumble along in the falling snow, none of their faces showing as the townspeople call down insults.READ MORE: Actor Jason Geiger indicted for loan fraud
Director János Szász gets a great performance by Piroska Molnar, who plays the twins grandmother. It’s not any easy role, being a villain who just might have a bit of love left in her cold heart. She dominates the scenes she is in and interacts wonderfully with the boys in their scenes on the farm. The twins are brothers in real life and that connection, which is so critical to the success of the film, in there in spades. They make a remarkable transformation from the happy, carefree boys in Germany, to harden, almost lifeless kids who have experienced too many bad things to ever be normal again.
This isn’t a film for everyone and can be extremely uncomfortable to watch. The movie is worth seeing for the cinematography and the performances. However, be warned, like, in war, all the characters in this film come out damaged, having experienced the worst that people can do to each other and themselves. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively in Atlanta at UA Tara Cinemas 4
[twitter-follow screen_name=’PreviewThis’]MORE NEWS: 'George Carlin's American Dream'