Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Hungarian
Nobel laureate Imre Kertész,
this exquisitely shot, predominantly black-and-white film follows
a Jewish teenager incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp. Most
films have overtly busy story lines and a regrettable lack of nuance.
Fateless is all subtlety –-too
much at times. Fourteen year old Gyurka
(Marcell Nagy) endures the horrors
of the extermination camp with an inexplicable equanimity, as if
simply accepting the randomness of his situation. An older inmate,
with an indomitable will to survive, takes Gyurka under his wing.
The boy's passivity works against the film, keeping the viewer at
an unfortunate emotional distance, although the astounding physical
toll he endures suggests his intense suffering. Mesmerizing black-and-white
images both capture and belie the horror of the story's setting,
giving the film an incongruous beauty that borders on the surreal.
Faces are like etched drawings, hushed portraits of human suffering.
In Hungarian and German, with English subtitles, Fateless marks
the feature directorial debut of award-winning cinematographer Lajos
Koltai, who entrusted the actual cinematography to the extraordinary
Gyula Pados (Kontroll).