The Notebook (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 104 minutes.
Not for children.
Not to be confused with
Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling falling in love in the 2004
as World War II is drawing to a violent end, Mother (Gyöngyvér
Bognár) and Father (Ulrich Matthes),
a Hungarian soldier home on leave for a few days, for the safety of
their twin sons (played by András and László Gyémán who remain unnamed
throughout the film) deliver them to the custody of their maternal
grandmother (Piroska Molnár), who lives in the country.
The father gives the boys a Bible and an empty notebook and tells them
to write down everything that happens to them. Grandmother is a hateful,
angry woman known by all around as “the witch,” who poisoned her husband
and hates her daughter. The boys are then basically abandoned to their
grandmother and the mother departs alone.
While their parents clearly love them, Grandmother does not. The twins
are, in essence, the same person, two bodies with one spirit, one will,
and one soul, in the words of director
even finishing each other’s sentences. In order to survive, they
transform themselves from gentle, loving boys into insensitive emotional
barbarians, intentionally desensitizing themselves to pain and normal
human emotions, abandoning all morals.
In addition to the twins, every character in the film is flawed either
physically or emotionally.
Beautifully photographed (Christian Berger) and well-directed with
admirable pace by
who co-wrote the lean script with
András Szekér, based on the international bestseller, Le Grand Cahier
by Agota Kristof, this could be one of the most realistic depictions of
the hopelessness and brutality (both physical and emotional) of war ever
Although a story of war, it’s not even close to being a traditional WWII
movie like Battleground (1949) or The Sands of Iwo Jima
(1949). There are no battles, no opposing armies, just ordinary human
beings, non-combatants trying to survive a world war that’s being fought
all around them. Complicated and intense, every
person in this film changes because of what war does to them, up to and
including the shocking, thought-provoking ending.