THE GREY ZONE
(Hristo Shopov as Halivni)
ORIGINAL TITLE: The Grey Zone.
DIRECTED BY: Tim Blake Nelson.
MAIN CAST: David Arquette, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Mira Sorvino, Daniel Benzali, David Chandler, Hristo Shopov, Allan Corduner, Mariana Stanisheva, Natasha Lyonne, Henry Stram and Kamelia Grigorova.
PRODUCED BY: Pamela Koffler, Tim Blake Nelson, Christine Vachon, Avi Lerner and Danny Lerner.
WRITTEN BY: Tim Blake Nelson. Based on the novel Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account by Dr. Miklos Nyszli.
ORIGINAL MUSIC BY: Jeff Dana.
RUNTIME: 96 minutes.
The man prefers to live in hell before dying. And this hell is the scenario of THE GREY ZONE.
The film narrates a horrifying story that happened in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. The story of Dr. Miklos Nyszli, a Hungarian Jew recruited by Dr. Mengele for his knowledge of pathology.
In the Auschwitz camp exists a Sonderkommando, the number 12, a team of Jews selected by the SS who have sold their services to the Nazis in order to delay and ease their final hour. They bring people to the gas chambers (in many cases by tricking them), remove their lifeless bodies, and then they burn them to dust. Hoffman, Hesch, Rosenthal, Halivni (Hristo Shopov) are some of the members. Doing this gives them the chance to prolong their lives by a few more months than the other prisoners.
But this is a bitter job, creating moral and ethical conflicts between the members of the Sonderkommando. They have to confront the terrible dilemma of helping to exterminate their Jewish friends or, in other cases, to betray them, in exchange for an uncertain prolongation of their lives.
The fear of living every hour and day in the concentration camp, in a visual and resonant oppressive atmosphere, created by the background noise of the crematoriums, the constant smoke, the unsteady walk of every prisoner…are irreversible punishments for each one of the protagonists.
When this Sonderkommando feels that the end is near and that they will be killed in order to be replaced with new incoming Jews, they decide to rebel against the Nazis, and get ammunition with the help of some very brave women from the fields.
When the rebellion is about to start, it is discovered that a girl has miraculously managed to escape the mortal gas. Thus, in an effort of self-redemption, they cover this situation and obsessively try to save her life, even though this means putting at risk the whole uprising, which could liberate thousands of prisoners.
* NOTE: It is said that "the grey zone" is that area that separates the victims from their prosecutors, it is formed by citizens who serve within the mechanism under the fear of a superior power.
Actor Tim Blake Nelson directs without contemplations, without romanticizing anything, without heroic speeches, without a single glimpse of humour, without any drop of glamour in his compact cast. For this reason the viewer finds a splendid film but one that is difficult to watch.It is as good as it is tough. One of the many movies about the concentration camps, but with its own style and history.
We find ourselves faced with an intense drama that is very well interpreted by all the actors, many of whom are stars in less glamorous roles. Mira Sorvino, for example, is unrecognizable and touching in her character. David Arquette and Stee Buscemi did a remarkable job. Harvey Keitel impersonates an evil villain incredibly. Hristo Shopov (Halivni) is hardly recognizable with a weak and extremely slim body, with a cold, lost look, seemingly more worried about guarding the “recyclable " items of the victims than the tragedy that surrounds him.
With an unexpected end through the change of perspective of the narrator: How far can one go to save their own life…?
The film won the Freedom of Expression Award (National Board of Review - USA, 2002), and was nominated for PFS Award (Political Film Society - USA, 2003); and for the Golden Shell (San Sebastian International Film Festival - Spain, 2001).