Book vs. Movie: The Grey Zone

Good morning everybody!

You may remember my reviews of Dr. Miklos Nyiszli’s memoirs as a Jewish physician at Auschwitz, and how deeply it affected me. I couldn’t help but wonder why so many Jews went passively to their deaths.

Well, on Saturday afternoon while I was doing my weekly deep cleaning and washing clothes, I happened to turn on the television and what was playing but a movie called The Grey Zone, and I realized very quickly that it was based on Nyiszli’s book.

The Grey Zone Poster

If you’ve ever wondered what David Arquette could do, watch this movie and you will never ask yourself that question again. He turns in a brilliant performance.

The film focuses not on the plight of the prisoners, but rather on the Sonderkomandos, the Jews who work in the crematoria. They have a very low life span indeed–just four months, during which they are allowed to dress in normal clothing, eat like kings (comparatively speaking) and plunder the treasures of the prisoners who obediently file into the room where they undress and prepare for what they think/believe/hope will be decontamination showers.

There were 13 Sonderkomando units, and each unit, save one, allowed themselves to be murdered at the end of their tenure. The 12th Sonderkomando, however, chose to rebel. They managed to destroy a major portion of the largest crematorium, and took out a number of SS before they were each systematically shot to death.

One day as the 12th Sonderkomando are removing corpses from the gas chamber, they discover a teenage girl who has somehow managed to survive. They rush her to Dr. Nyiszli who saves her.  They are desperate for her to live. But the SS’s policy that no one who knows what truly happens at Auschwitz interferes with that hope.

So: Book vs. Movie?   You may never hear me say this again, but movie. And I have to say that Arquette’s performance is what tipped the balance.

About a thinker

I am. And today, that's good enough.
This entry was posted in Memoir, Nonfiction, Posts by Faith and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Book vs. Movie: The Grey Zone

  1. Margot says:

    The movie won? Wow, it must be truly gripping. I’m afraid I’ve never heard of either the book or the movie but now you have me adding this to the Netflix queue. Glad you found the movie. Sure beats all that housecleaning, doesn’t it?

    • It definitely beats housecleaning, but in the tiny apartment we’re occupying until our insurance company decides to take care of our house, I will say the housecleaning takes a comparatively short time. But yes, very gripping movie.

  2. Amused says:

    Every once in awhile a movie can really blow the book out of the water. Its rare but it happens! Great review.

  3. Kimberly says:

    Ooooh, contro-VER-sial!!! I can’t remember where I read this recently (someone who posted on Goodreads, maybe?), but someone made a comment that books and movies aren’t meant to provide the same experience. Seems obvious, I know, but I think when we compare the two mediums in terms of the same material, we expect the movie (because it often comes later) to be similar to the book. When we know that in all probability, it’s not going to be. Reading and providing everything else except for the words is entirely different than a film (especially in a theater), which by nature is a much more sensory experience. Even if the storylines, etc. remain the same, the intent is often different.

    You know another one where I liked the movie better than the book? Revolutionary Road.

    • izzybella says:

      I still haven’t seen that. I want to but it just seems like the kind of movie you have to psych yourself up for. You’ll be glad you watched it after it’s over. Like exercise…

    • You’re quite right, Kimberly. I know that’s a conversation I’ve frequently had with my husband, who’s not really into reading but loves movies. I keep telling him how such books as the Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia differ from the films that were made. I love the books, love the films, but it has to be different for it to work.

      I’ve never read nor seen Revolutionary Road, but will definitely add it to my TBR list. Thanks for visiting!

  4. I think David Arquette is a very under rated actor, Now I need to find “The Gray Zone” to rent, You’re right Kimberly, I think books and movies are different sensory experiences, but we compare them anyway. I try not to, but I fail miserably. Don’t know that I can come up with a case where I preferred the movie over the book, but I bet there is at least one.


  5. Pingback: How do you like your movie adaptations? |

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