On a winter morning, a mother goes to waken her son Heinrich; his bed is empty. She leaves her flat to find him. The neighbors' door, with a Star of David painted on it, is ajar, the furnishings in disarray, the family gone. She asks passersby, runs to the police then on to the rail yard. Flashbacks show that Heinrich and the neighbors' son Paul are six years old and best friends. Paul's family's deportation is expected soon; Heinrich's mother tells her son that they're going to Toyland. Heinrich wants to go with them, has a bag packed, and listens for their departure. His mother realizes he's joined them, and her resolve becomes more urgent. Will she arrive in time to save Heinrich?
|Release Date||:||August 29, 2007|
|Production Company||:||Mephisto Film|
|Director||:||Jochen Alexander Freydank|
|Writers||:||Jochen Alexander Freydank|
|Casts||:||Julia Jäger, Cedric Eich, David C. Bunners, Torsten Michaelis, Claudia Hübschmann, Gregor Weber, Jürgen Trott, Klaus-Jürgen Steinmann, Matthias Paul, Johanna Penski|
|Plot Keywords||:||winter, german, little boy, anti semitism, neighbor, jewish, soldier, flashback, film, 1940s, worrying, short|
Today I went with three friends to a special showing of all the films nominated for the 2009 Oscar for Best Live Action Short. Oddly, the four of us were in pretty much agreement about the films. Our pick for best of the nominees was PIG ("Grisen"), though ON THE LINE ("Auf der Strecke") was a very good film and is nearly as deserving of the award. We predicted that TOYLAND ("Spielzeugland"), however, will win the award because it's the sort of the film the Academy tends to like AND because PIG might ruffle some feathers because it is not "politically correct". I'll update this review after the awards are given.
TOYLAND is a film set during the Nazi era. A boy asks his mother about why all his neighbors (all Jews) are disappearing. She explains that everything is okay and that they have gone to "Toyland". Unfortunately, it sounds like such a nice place that the kid hopes to go there, too, and the film begins with him sneaking off with a shipment of Jews to the concentration camps because he wants to visit this magical place.
Much of the film consists of the mother trying to find the boy and eventually the SS officers help her to try to locate the boy. This all ends in a marvelous twist that I won't reveal here, but this twist takes the film from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
A lovely film that will probably win--in part, because the film is about an important subject that the Academy seems to like, the Holocaust (and highly reminiscent of LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL), and in part because it is so exceptionally well-crafted from start to finish. My only reservation is that the print was awfully dark--practically everything looked black at times. Perhaps it was just a bad print.
UPDATE: It's official, TOYLAND is the winner. This didn't surprise me at all and it was well deserving of the award, though I was still pulling for PIG to take the honors.