The Birch-Tree Meadow (2003) Poster

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FilmLabRat17 March 2004
Really outstanding, gripping movie - excellent in every way. I rarely give 10s or 1s, but this is definitely a 10.

The movie opens with an Auschwitz Survivor's Association meeting, a sort of "class reunion" type gathering where people are joking and reminiscing, etc. Quickly, the tone changes when wounds are opened and one woman returns to the scene of the crime, to relive it in her mind. She unexpectedly meets a young German man who is photographing the place, making an archaological record of it. He meets her and wants to join her trip down memory lane. It gets more and more interesting, with a great deal of psychological complexity throughout.

The only thing I would change is the ending. I won't say what happens, but she needed to remember the letter. It would have been better punctuated, as a story. Beautiful cinematography, writing, acting, the whole bit. Outstanding!
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wonderful movie about a survivor of Auschwitz who returns fifty years later
susanna_h17 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
An excellent movie. Most striking is the contrast between Myriam who visits the camp fifty years later and is overcome by her terrible memories, particularly of her friends who did not survive, even blaming herself for the death of some of them, and Oskar who is the grandson of an SS-man and who visits the camp and takes photos and thinks that he is doing something to amend his grandfathers evil-doings, but in reality is an example for insensitivity - not realizing what Myriam is going through, he uses her to overcome his own confused feelings instead of respecting and supporting her and putting her in the first place.

The horrors of the camp are not shown, but told. Myriam tells about what she has gone through. Instead the movie shows what she is going through when she visits the camp some decades later, and this is even more disturbing than the well-known horrors of the concentration camp. For those who survived, never really left the camps.
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Birkenau means Birch Tree Meadow
phmw22 March 2003
An Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor returns to the camp sixty-years later. The story follows her visit, her reactions, her mood swings.

Documentary or fiction? Marceline Loridan-Ivens--herself a death camp survivor--directs a harrowing autobiographical story in which the fictional blends with the environment, and memories of the past are still very vivid, not through flashbacks, but through the viewer's own imagination. Filmed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the film is a touching performance by Anouk Aimée. Her reactions (she had not prepared the part but let herself react to the situations) are disturbing, but in a positive way. As Myriam confronts the ghosts of her past, she is caught between her will to remember, and her will to forget, navigating to and fro fron reason to near-insanity. The variations of her mood are contrasted to the stability of Oskar (remarkably well played by August Diehl), a young German photographer, grandson of an SS.

Disturbing, harrowing, and painful at times, "La Petite Prairie aux Bouleaux" (The Birch Tree Meadow, or Birkenau in German) is a touching film. Through its simplicity, it manages to deal with a delicate subject with concern and honesty.

Please note Jeanne Moreau's contribution in the writing team, and also Zbigniew Zamachowski's appearance as Gutek.
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