AJFF What to Watch: Book to Screen Part 2

08/17/2020

Whether you're a person who reads the book before seeing the movie or catches up on the book after, these book-to-screen adaptations are worth your time no matter in which order you go. And, in case you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1. Film titles are linked with information on where to watch.

Good
Viggo Mortenson stars as a German literary professor who is seduced by the evils of Nazi ideology. John Halder is a decent family man who copes with the demands of an over-anxious wife (Anastasia Hille), two needy children and a senile mother (Gemma Jones). His novel about mercy killings arouses the interest of Nazi leaders who commission Halder for a research paper to support their twisted propaganda. Blind to the consequences of Nazi collaboration, Halder finds himself both drawn to a beautiful young student (Jodie Whittaker) and alienated from lifelong friend Maurice (Jason Isaacs), a Jewish psychiatrist. Seemingly innocuous choices lead to more choices, eventually to devastating effect. A provocative story of moral corruption, the film is based on the stage work by British playwright C.P. Taylor. Featured at the 2009 AJFF.

Natasha
A forbidden romance between the son of Soviet-Jewish émigrés and a scandalous young girl from Moscow leads to heartache in this Canadian coming-of-age tale that starkly captures a slice of contemporary immigrant life. Sixteen-year-old Mark Berman (Alex Ozerov) is something of a slacker, lazing away the summer in his parent's basement, and selling drugs and riding his bike through a tightly-knit Toronto neighborhood. When Mark's feckless uncle (Igor Ovadis) enters into an improbable marriage, his flamboyant younger mail-order bride (Aya-Tatana Stolnits) arrives with her jaded daughter Natasha (Sasha Gordon) forcibly in tow, both of them products of New Russia decadence. The two teenagers gradually warm to each other, with Mark succumbing to his underage cousin's debased seduction, until family rancor and Natasha's troubled past threaten to destroy their assimilated suburban fantasy. Based on a collection of award-winning autobiographical short stories by Canadian author David Bezmozgis. Featured at the 2016 AJFF.

Run Boy Run
A superlative saga of courage and compassion, this drama tells the extraordinary true story of a Polish boy who seeks the kindness of others in his solitary struggle to outlast the Nazi occupation and keep alive his Jewish faith. Escaping the Warsaw ghetto at the behest of his father, nine-year old Srulik (movingly portrayed by twin child actors Andrzej and Kamil Tkacz) flees to the woods. There, he learns to hide from SS patrols and scour for food, until loneliness and the harsh onset of winter drive him back to civilization. Taken in by a kindhearted farmer's wife (Elisabeth Duda), he is given shelter and a new identity. Passing himself off as Jurek, a Christian war orphan, the intrepid boy traverses the countryside from village to village, working as a farmhand under an ever-present threat of persecution. Some will help him survive and others will betray him. Just when it seems his childhood memories and identity could be lost forever, Jurek's harrowing journey culminates in a powerhouse conclusion and postscript. Based on the bestselling Holocaust novel by Israeli author Uri Orlev. Featured at the 2014 AJFF.

Sarah's Key
The 2010 French drama, adapted from the novel of the same name, follows a parallel narrative of a journalist's present-day (2002) investigation into the Vel' d'Hiv’ Roundup of Jews in German-occupied Paris in 1942 and a young girl's experiences during and after the events. The film stars Kristin Scott Thomas who, for most of the film, speaks fluent French as she has lived in France for many years. Thomas also received a César Award nomination for this performance with the film's subject matter holding a great deal of personal meaning for her as her in-laws were forced to flee their homes as children, avoiding capture and the concentration camps by hiding in the French countryside.

Secrets of War
Inseparable childhood friends in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands find their loyalty severely tested in this family-friendly, coming-of-age story featured at the 2015 AJFF. As conflict rages across Europe in the summer of 1943, 12-year-old best friends Tuur (Maas Bronkhuyzen) and Lambert (Joes Brauers) are all but oblivious to the danger. Days are spent going to school, and playing in the dense woods and underground caves outside their idyllic village in Dutch Limburg. Reality soon intrudes and begins to divide families, with Tuur's father and brother joining a fledgling resistance movement, while Lambert's parents ally themselves with the local Nazi party. The boy's relationship is particularly strained, however, with the arrival of Maartje (Pippa Allen), a dark-haired girl with a mysterious identity. As the boys compete for her attentions, jealousy and betrayal set in motion a series of high-stakes events that will alter the lives of all three youths. Director Dennis Bots and a talented child cast approach the sensitive subject matter from a delicate point of view suitable for young audiences. This bittersweet ode to innocence lost is adapted from the best-selling young adult novel by Jacques Vriens.

Sophie's Choice
Directed by Alan J. Pakula and adapted William Styron's 1979 novel of the same name, the film follows Meryl Streep starring as Sophie, a Polish immigrant who shares a boarding house in Brooklyn with her tempestuous lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline in his feature film debut), and a young writer, Stingo (Peter MacNicol).The highly acclaimed film won Streep the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film was also nominated for Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros), Best Costume Design (Albert Wolsky), Best Music (Marvin Hamlisch), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Alan J. Pakula).