The Jewish people faced many dark moments in its long and troubled history. What happened in the night of July 16, 1942 in Paris – the arrest of more than ten thousand Jews, men and women, young, old and children, their detention at the Velodrome d’Hiver, followed by their deportation to transit camps in France and then to the death camps in Poland – was one of these dark moments. It is for the French nation however that I dare say this was maybe the darkest moment in their history. Never has France – or at least modern France – abandoned the principles of tolerance and generosity to the weak and prosecuted who knocked at its gates as did that night Petain, Laval and the other collaborationists who were accomplices to the sending to hell and death of so many innocent people.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1382725/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1382725/

 

I have used a few film reviews back the term of ‘docu-melodrama’ and I guess that I can use it here as well, adding maybe the adjective ‘historical’ in front. ‘La Raffle’ ambitiously retraces the story of a few Jewish families of all conditions living in Paris at the time of the German occupation in 1942 and falling victim to the deeds of the German occupiers and of their French collaborators. Although the characters may be fictional the stories are essentially true, and the film starts with a written message attesting the historic accuracy of all the extreme situations that are being described. The fiction parts are interleaved with a few documentary sequences, as well as with re-enacted scenes from the headquarters of the German army and French police, of the discussions between the French leader Petain and prime minister Laval, and between Hitler himself, his faithful executioner Himmler and other people in his entourage. The script written by Rose Bosch (who also directed) takes good care to balance the acts of the ‘bad’ and ‘good’ French but the horror of the situation of the descent of a whole people from trust and hope into fear and despair is the strong message that cannot get lost.

 

(video source MOVIECLIPS Trailers)

 

There is great acting to be admired in this film – first of all Jean Reno as the Jewish physician trying to face an impossible situation, alleviate sufferings, save lives, while knowing about his own faith. Melanie Laurent is sensible and credible in the role of the nurse that aims to represent what was left good and human among the French in those times. Some of the supporting roles are also memorable such as the Trotskyst family father played by Gad Elmaleh, a victim of a double disillusion. I liked less the historic background scenes, especially the ones related to Hitler’s environment, and the actor playing Hitler who was badly miscast and directed, undecided whether he should be evil or operetta-ic.   Overall the film has however very strong scenes, some of the best in the Holocaust movies and asks the right questions about the French role in the tragedy of its Jews. Is this melodrama? yes – but very strong and well made, impressing to tears and nothing is wrong with this – there are no bad genres, just bad movies and La Raffle is certainly not among them.