The Grey Zone

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For the 1997 Italian film, see The Grey Zone (1997 film).
The Grey Zone
Greyzonethe.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tim Blake Nelson
Produced by Avi Lerner
Danny Lerner
Pamela Koffler
Christine Vachon
Tim Blake Nelson .
Written by Tim Blake Nelson
Based on Auschwitz: a Doctor's Eyewitness Account 
by Miklós Nyiszli and
The Grey Zone 
by Tim Blake Nelson
Starring David Arquette
Steve Buscemi
Harvey Keitel
Mira Sorvino
Allan Corduner
Daniel Benzali
Music by Jeff Danna
Cinematography Russell Lee Fine
Edited by Michelle Botticelli
Tim Blake Nelson
Production
company
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release dates
  • September 13, 2001 (2001-09-13) (TIFF)
  • October 18, 2002 (2002-10-18) (United States)
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $517,872[1]

The Grey Zone is a 2001 film directed by Tim Blake Nelson and starring David Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Mira Sorvino and Daniel Benzali. It is based on the book Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account written by Dr. Miklós Nyiszli.

The title comes from a chapter in the book The Drowned and the Saved by Holocaust survivor Primo Levi. The film tells the story of the Jewish Sonderkommando XII in the Auschwitz concentration camp in October 1944. These prisoners were made to assist the camp's guards in shepherding their victims to the gas chambers and then disposing of their bodies in the ovens.

Plot[edit]

The film opens in October 1944, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. A small group of Sonderkommandos, prisoners assigned to dispose of the bodies of other dead prisoners, are plotting an insurrection that, they hope, will destroy at least one of the camp's four crematoria and gas chambers. They are receiving firearms from Polish citizens in the nearby village and gunpowder from the UNIO munitions factory; the female prisoners who work in the UNIO are smuggling the powder to the men’s camp among the bodies of their dead workers. When the women's activity is eventually discovered by the Germans, they are savagely tortured, but they don't reveal the plot.

Meanwhile, a Hungarian-Jewish doctor, Miklós Nyiszli (Allan Corduner), who works for the Nazi scientist Josef Mengele in an experimental medical lab, has received permission from Mengele himself to visit his wife and daughter in the women’s labor camp. Nyiszli is quite concerned about the safety of his family and believes that Mengele’s orders will keep them from the gas chambers.

A new trainload of Hungarian Jewish prisoners arrives and all are immediately sent to the gas chambers. As the group is given instructions about "delousing," a fearful, angry man in the group begins shouting questions at one of the Sonderkommandos, Hoffman (Arquette), who has been issuing the instructions. Hoffman beats him to death in an outburst of frustration, in an attempt to make the man stop talking. After the gassing of this same group, a badly shaken Hoffman finds a young girl alive beneath a pile of bodies. He removes her from the chamber, and, after informing the leader of the insurgency, Schlermer (Daniel Benzali), takes her to a storage room and summons Nyiszli, who revives her. The group decides to hide her in the children’s camp. While the prisoners hide her in a dressing room, SS-Oberscharführer Eric Muhsfeldt (Keitel) suddenly walks in. Noticing that one of the prisoners present, Abramowics (Buscemi), is there illegally, he shoots him, prompting the girl to scream and to be discovered. Nyiszli then takes Muhsfeldt outside and tells him about the uprising, but cannot tell him where or when it will begin. Muhsfeldt agrees to protect the young girl after the uprising is suppressed.

The insurrection begins and Crematoria IV is destroyed with the smuggled explosives. All the Sonderkommandos who survive the explosions and gunfights with the SS are captured. They are held until the fire in the crematorium is extinguished --after which, they are executed. Hoffmann and a fellow prisoner, Rosenthal (David Chandler), conclude that the girl will not be set free after she is forced to watch the executions. After all captives are shot, the girl is allowed to flee toward the main gate of the camp. Before she can run very far, Muhsfeldt draws his handgun and shoots her. The film closes with a voice-over recitation by the dead girl.

Cast[edit]

Production and release[edit]

The film was based upon Nelson's own play adapted from Nyiszli's book. A 90 percent scale "model" of the Birkenau camp was built near Sofia, Bulgaria for the production of the film using the original architectural plans.

The film was first released on DVD on March 18, 2003. In 2008 it was released on DVD in the UK.

The film received the 2002 National Board of Review Freedom of Expression Award.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Grey Zone (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  2. ^ Newmarket Press web site. Last accessed: February 7, 2011.

External links[edit]