The fictional film “Sarah’s Key by Gilles Paquet-Brenner brings to light the challenges or the horrific nature of life faced by Jewish men, women and even children during the historic times of the holocaust. The film setting relates to the happenings of the ancient times to our day a today live by having settings of 1942 when Vel’ d’hiv Roundup for the Jews assisted and setting of today’s ways of live. All characters in the play portray the suffering of the Jewish community both in the ancient times and today. For instance, Sarah who is the protagonist in the film faces suffering from the time she was a young girl to the time of her death as an adult. Towards the beginning of the story, Sarah and her parents are forced to leave their home by fresh police to go and provide forced labor. Even though she was a young girl she knew the dangers that surrounded her and her family and this fears led her to hide her brother. Later in the film Sarah blames herself for the death of her brother since she did not get back to open the box for her brother who she had hid in a closed box to his death. These similar challenges are experienced in our day today life as depicted by Julia a journalist who faces hardship due to the falling of her family. The challenges faced by all the characters in the play either result to negative solutions like death and divorce. The film is a depiction of how history influences current events as well as how in times of conflict the innocent are not spared.
Sarah’s key provides a widow to the injustice that occurred as a result of the 2nd world war to the Jews and these challenges are noticed up to date. History may bring major hopes and positive thinking but happenings behold our control influence our future negatively. Sarah a major character in the play hoped for a better life that was free from the oppression of unjust authority; the French police. Her hopes were was not achieved but just worsened when he was completely unable to get back home and safe her brother. The extreme unjust control of our immediate authority can result to more suffering to the future even on the present time as illustrated by Julia a major journalist who feels frustrated under the authority of her husband to the extent of seeking divorce. Though the occurrences surrounding the film happened long ago during the Vel’ d’hiv Roundup they still highly influence the happenings of today actions as noticed in Julia and Sarah’s son William. History does not represent hope even to the minorities, in the past or during the World war two children were disregarded and their presence assumed and this acted negatively to their wellbeing. This is exactly what happened to Sarah’s brother in the hands of the French police, similar occurrence is noticed when Julia takes her daughter to a unfriendly negotiations. It is also what happens to William since he had hardly been informed about the whereabouts of his own mother until he was an adult and their mercy.
Clearly, the film is a clear representation on the relationship between history of Vel’ d’hiv Roundup to the present times. Vel’ d’hiv Roundup which happened in 1942 just like the time the film is acted portray the black hours of man that still remain in our history. Issues such as racism, injustice and inhumanity acts which humans have continued to struggle with for years are brought to light through the movie. For years, Jewish adults fault in the society post war and children were removed from homes while other died in homes and in camps due to poor living condition. This are the same issues that face us today, the economic strains, and the need to attain freedom are the challenges that people face in the modernized life. Due to the increasing need to gain material wealth such as land like what Julian inherited or what William was chancing, we find that we disregard some important aspects in life. History does not only contribute to our problems today as seen in Julia’s and William’s present life but also gives a major purpose or direction on how we handle matters today(Jackson, Julian 47).
The film while mainly set in the context of both modern day France and France during the round up and unmerited persecution of Jews and Jewish families, is also set during the second World War, and depicts how the Holocaust affected other European countries, with some Jews being offered up as peace offerings aimed at assuaging Hitler and his seemingly unstoppable army. French cooperation though coerced, was based on the film carried out a bit overzealously to a certain degree. The film depicts a situation of coerced peace, in which the French due to their humiliation by the German troops, had been forced to eat humble pie and cooperate with the Germans, as can also be seen in instances where French police officers opted to turn a blind eye in some cases for the sake of their people. Indeed compared to the probable mood of most soldiers and law enforcement at the time, the film comes quite close to depicting the sabotage of German endeavors by the French. Indeed if looked at from the context of France as an unwilling ally in the monstrosities perpetrated by the Hitler regime, certain events within the film become quite understandable (Sommerville, 38). For instance, the decision by the soldier to allow both Sarah and Rachel to escape from the French run camp, is perhaps a clear indication that a majority of the French were unwilling participants in the horrific exercise. This unwillingness to participate is also seen when the officer searching for Sarah and Rachel deliberately abandons his search for the two girls after seeing the physician carrying away Rachel’s dead body.
The fact that both Julia’s father in law, as well as William’s father (Sarah’s husband) find it quite difficult to narrate the occurrences of the period in question, depict the fact that a majority of the French people disagreed with the roundup, as well as events that followed, to the extent that it is seemingly a part of their history they wish they could do something about. Indeed the speech by President Francois Hollande on July 22nd 2012, during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup was full of regretful connotations, as well as the implied feeling amongst the French that they had let their Jewish brothers and sisters down. Indeed the unwillingness of France as a participant in the persecution of Jews is avidly captured when Hollande says in his speech “Honor was saved by the Righteous, by all those who were able to rise up against barbarism, by those anonymous heroes who hid a neighbor here, helped another there, and risked their lives to save those of innocent people” (Hollande, n.p). The commemoration of the 70th anniversary, as well as the acknowledgement by previous Presidents such as Jacques Chirac as to the occurrences of the roundup, testify to the significance the event holds for most French people. The reluctance by those present during the commission of the atrocities as can be seen during Julia’s investigations, is indeed an accurate depiction of the current situation in France, as a majority seem ashamed of the fact that the Vel d’Hiv roundup is even a part of their history.
The film is in a way set at a time when people do not really understand the significance of the roundup, such that some of the French directly affected by it are unaware of its significance. A huge majority of the French people simply opts to ignore that part of their history, or is honestly unaware of its existence and significance. The fact that William is totally unaware of his own mother’s history and heritage is testament to the effect that past occurrences can have on relationships. Not only is William oblivious of his mother’s past, but he is even oblivious of something as significant as his own heritage. To an extent, occurrences such as the roundup, usually provoke withdrawal, as well as spark of further injustices, rather than the victims’ deserved justice. Not only did Sarah’s experiences deprive her of the opportunity to live a normal life and have a normal relationship with her son, but they even led to her committing suicide, mainly due to the guilt she felt. Such feelings usually apply even to real life situations, as can be seen by the determination by the French government to rectify past mistakes, such unwelcome history seemingly influences even future generations that never participated in any way.
The creation of the film itself, is to a large extent proof of how significant history usually is in shaping current events. Though set in different times, 1942 and 1996, the influence that occurrences of the earlier time had in Sarah’s life, and subsequently in Julia’s life, are accurate depictions of how current events not just in France, but all around the world are shaped by past events. The film is contextually accurate in how it depicts events, emotions and behaviors both during the roundup, immediately after, as well as a number of years later, essentially creating awareness over the significance of the events of 1942 and the effects more than 50 years later.
Hollande, Francois (2012, July 22). The ‘Crime Committed in France, by France.’ 15th April 2013. Web
Sommerville, Donald . The Complete Illustrated History of World War Two: An Authoritative Account of the Deadliest Conflict in Human History with Analysis of Decisive Encounters and Landmark Engagements. Lorenz Books, 2008
Jackson, Julian . France: The Dark Years. Oxford University Press, 2001.