Film review by Colin Fraser


A young Hungarian Jew is incarcerated in Auschwitz. Fateless is his story of survival score

moviereview rates films from
1 (unwatchable) to 5 (unmissable)
Marcell Nagy, Béla Dóra, Áron Dimény, Daniel Craig

Lajos Koltai

Imre Kertész

Hungary / Germany / UK (subtitles)

Rating / Running Time
MA / 140 minutes

Australian Release
March 2006

Official Site

(c) moviereview 2005
ABN 72 775 390 361

There are war films and then there are war films. Some deal with action (Enemy at the Gates), others with suffering (The Piano). All bring a slant on a tale that’s become as old as the war itself. Yet in the telling and retelling, have we begun to remember the atrocity rather like we remember childhood winters – through photographs and a recreated history? This is the uncertainty that undermines Lajos Koltai’s beautiful, if deeply familiar, account of the holocaust. I say beautiful for that is the disturbing reality of his tale about a young, Hungarian Jew thrown into the camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Koltai’s film is deliberately handsome, from stylish Budapest to snowflakes in cattle trains. Even the camps have a muddy elegance.

Fateless is based on Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertéstz's novel and charts the unknown future for a community thrown into an unspeakable hell. A former cinematographer, Koltai’s deliberate style creates a disturbing rhythm, evoking the unbalanced nature of the boy’s world as he turns from childhood to embrace the horrific (eternal? hopeless?) fate of his people. Ennio Morricone’s soaring score embellishes the slick production and completes a distorted and appropriately harrowing mood.

However Fateless delivers nothing especially new. As the action turns toward survival, Koltai exploits our knowledge of events with the familiar ways of familiar characters (fat gendarmes, wiry Nazis, bespectacled Jews). When the young man finally returns home, his unlikely longing for the camps is perhaps one of the films most upsetting moments. Of itself, this is not uninteresting but Fateless seems unable to say much more that hasn’t already been said in any number of similar war films.