Fateless (Lajos Koltai) 33 – This Holocaust drama concentrates on the suffering of a young Hungarian boy, but seems more a showcase for cinematographer-cum-director Koltai’s photography than anything. Starting out interestingly, the film appears to be a spiritual inquisition into what it is that makes a Jew a Jew. Once the boy is transferred to the first of a series of internment camps, however, it becomes almost wordless, presenting a series of stylized images of the boy’s downward progression with next to no characterization.
Through voiceover narration, the boy tells the audience that he has reached a point where he’s accepted the fact that he might be killed at any time. For the longest time, there’s little emotional progression from that state, and the endless procession of non-dramatic, bloodless images of suffering becomes almost fashionable in its monochrome abstraction. Ultimately, the film seems to argue that the Jewish experience is one of suppression of response and resignation to fate, no matter what the circumstance, which makes the ending, in which the boy who has lived up to this questionable ideal rejects Judaism, all the more baffling (unless that hint that life goes on in the closing shot is meant to be a reaffirmation of lapsed faith…). While the film’s near-inability to articulate the experience makes it somewhat singular, its images are not any more striking than those in any other Holocaust film, which makes its pretentious inadequacies feel like a lapse of good taste.