Blu-ray Review: THE ROUND UP
The Round Up (La Rafle) is a French production that looks to bring an authentic re-telling of the Vel’ d’Hiv Jewish witch hunt to the screen and is a must for those with interest in WWII.
The terrible plight of the Jews at the hands of Hitler and his Nazis is a harrowing and haunting event that audiences seem never to tire of. Cinematic versions have long been screened and classic examples such as Schindlers List (1993) have become some of the most celebrated films in the history of the moving image. The Round Up (La Rafle) is a French production that looks to bring an authentic re-telling of the Vel dHiv Jewish witch hunt to the screen. Released today on Blu-ray and DVD, if the Second World War is of interest to you then its definitely worth checking out. Based on real recollections from those who remember the period, The Round Up follows a group of characters of both Jewish and non-Jewish descent. Focusing on two families, the narrative reveals their normal home life in Vel dHiv, the free zone just outside of Paris. Living simple but happy lives, their world is turned upside down when the occupied French government agree to hand over 24000 Jews to the Nazis. Performing a witch hunt, the French sympathisers gather up the Jewish in the happy, free community. Sending them to Veledrome DHiver stadium the thousands of families are treated atrociously. Jewish doctor David Sheinbaum (Jean Reno) helps treat the sick and wounded. Assisted by the protestant nurse Annette Monod (Melanie Laurent), a strong bond is formed between the two. As the French ship the Jewish out to a concentration camp at Beaune-La-Ronde, Annette follows David and the families. Whilst at the camp, everyone makes the best of the appalling situation. However, things take a turn for the worse as families are torn apart and sent to their deaths. Can Annette help save some of those she has grown to love? Will anybody manage to escape the camp? Will anyone survive the horrors? The Round Up is an excellent film that perfectly taps into the raw emotion that is still evoked by one of the darkest crimes in human history. Seamlessly transitioning between the Jewish families and their everyday struggles and the French politicians who negotiate with their lives, the film is a gritty and intense account of the awful events of 1942. Jean Reno and Laurent as the medics are the epitome of heroism, as they selflessly battle to help all those in need of it. Whilst at the Veledrome, David helps a young woman escape by revealing that she can obtain an exit pass from the chief plumber. When Annette questions why he does not use one himself he simply replies that nobody would look after the sick should he be so selfish. This one brief moment epitomises the character and from this moment on we know that he has sealed his own fate in the blind hope that he will be able to save others. Inspiring Annette to follow in his footsteps, she too makes the self sacrifice of deciding to follow her patients, despite the fact that she could walk away at any time. Reno and Laurent are extremely convincing in their roles and they never appear to be overly optimistic or unrealistically moralistic. Both fight for what is right, but their intentions are believable and viewers will not doubt their affection for the prisoners. The calibre of the rest of the acting is extremely high and each actor manages to slide between happiness, extreme fear and gut-wrenching agony effortlessly. The child actors are equally as impressive as their adult co-stars and it would be virtually impossible to not feel emotionally attached to them: particularly Mathieu Di Concerto as Nono, whos naïve innocence is both heart warming and painfully sad. Essentially, The Round Up does exactly what it intends to do: evoking sadness, rage and disappointment within audiences it helps remind us of the truly horrific plight of the Jewish, lest we forget, at the hands of one truly disturbed man. For the majority of viewers it would undoubtedly be very difficult to not have your emotions stirred up, despite the overall quality of the film. However, as The Round Up is a very solid production Id hedge my bets that its impossible. The release is slightly let down by the fact that only a making of documentary completes the special features. Its an interesting behind the scenes look at the production and some of the inspirations behind it, but its pretty standard fare. Having said this, the film needs little supplementary material to have any impact. Released today, The Round Up is available on both Blu-ray disc and DVD (on which this review is based).