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United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 0 DVD: it WILL NOT play on standard US DVD player. You need multi-region PAL/NTSC DVD player to view it in USA/Canada: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), SPECIAL FEATURES: Biographies, Interactive Menu, Photo Gallery, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: Dutch actor, Jeroen Krabbe's first feature film is a touching look at the connected lives of two Jewish families in early 1970s Belgium. Laura Fraser stars as Chaja, the 20 year-old daughter of two Holocaust survivors who eschews her faith and goes to Antwerp to study philosophy and live a bohemian life. However, when she takes a job as a nanny for the Kalmans, a Hasidic family, she begins a friendship with the devout Mrs. Kalman (Rossellini) and her four-year-old son, Simcha that forces her to re-evaluate the Jewish faith. An affecting and clear eyed look at Hasidic faith, which is so often glossed over and generalised in movies, LEFT LUGGAGE is a moving film, aided immeasurably by Ms. Rossellini's and Ms. Fraser's standout performances. SCREENED/AWARDED AT: Berlin International Film Festival, British Independent Film Awards, ...Left Luggage ( 2 koffers vol )
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The date is 1972, the place is Antwerp, Belgium. In other words, we are in Central Europe in the middle of the Vietnam era, which is also the post-Holocaust generation. On the surface, the film is about personal encounters between several different types of Jews. On a deeper level, it explores the various ways in which the Jewish people of that generation were attempting to cope with the cultural and emotional devastation of the Holocaust.
Each character in the film is trying to recover their own "left luggage" -- the pieces of their pre-Holocaust past that will make them feel whole again. For Chaya's father, the luggage is literally two suitcases of family memorabilia that he buried during the war, and is now obsessed with finding again. But. as his wife says, the "left luggage" is not really the old suitcases -- he is looking for himself. Chaya's mother, in turn, is dealing (or not dealing) with her memories of the Holocaust through denial. She attempts to live a "normal" life of going to the hairdresser, baking cakes, watering her houseplants -- but it comes across as tense and strained.
Neither of Chaya's parents understands why their daughter does not come to visit more often. On her part, Chaya feels totally disconnected from her parents' Jewishness. She is more concerned with the anti-war movement on campus.
Mr. Kalman (the Hasidic father) also lost his family during the Holocaust. They were shot for refusing to spit on the Torah. Now, he holds to the religious traditions of Hasidism as his lifeline to the past. He expects his three sons to be Torah scholars who will carry on the family tradition, and is having difficulty accepting the fact that his four-year-old son, Simchah, is a slow learner who has not yet begun to talk . When Simchah finally does say something ("Quack! Quack!"), Mrs. Kalman is delighted, but Mr. Kalman can only say, "My son is saying quack-quack when he should be reciting the Four Questions at the seder?" The father does not know how to love a son who is not a Torah scholar.
It is Chaya, the secularized nanny, who finally brings little Simcha out of his shell and gets him to start talking. Meanwhile, she has to come to grips with her own Jewish self-hate and the issue of antisemitism. Up to this point, being Jewish has seemed irrelevant to her life, and she has been "passing" among her gentile friends. Now she is confronted daily with an anti-semitic (if pathetic) elevator operator who goes out of his way to be nasty, Nazi graffiti on the park benches, and a "best friend" from college who turns out to be prejudiced against Jews and makes tactless remarks when she finds out that Chaya is Jewish.
I won't tell you any more, because that would spoil the film. I will say is that that this is a serious dramatic tragedy, not a comedy or an action film. Come to it with an open, feeling heart, and you cannot help but be moved.
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