My Mother's Courage

  • 1995
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy, Drama

The mass extermination of millions of European Jews is hardly the stuff of comedy, but German director Michael Verhoeven has fashioned an eloquent and surprisingly funny tale from one woman's chilling brush with the Holocaust. Based on an incident in the life of the mother of Hungarian-Jewish author George Tabori, on whose play this film is based, Verhoeven's...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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The mass extermination of millions of European Jews is hardly the stuff of comedy, but German director Michael Verhoeven has fashioned an eloquent and surprisingly funny tale from one woman's chilling brush with the Holocaust. Based on an incident in the life of the

mother of Hungarian-Jewish author George Tabori, on whose play this film is based, Verhoeven's film follows Elsa (superbly played by Pauline Collins) through one singularly frightening day during WWII. Preternaturally optimistic, dutiful and always obedient, Budapest housewife Elsa manages to

retain a dangerously deceptive sense of safety, even after her husband's deportation to Auschwitz. One morning in 1944, she's arrested and taken to a train station where, after a cursory interrogation, she and other "genetically impure" Hungarians are loaded onto cattle cars en route to a

concentration camp. Elsa survives -- in fact, she returns home that very night -- but it's a harrowing scenario, fraught with blackly comic absurdity. Attempting to make any movie about the Holocaust begs the question of whether tragedy on such a grand scale can be justly served by filmic

fantasy. Verhoeven chooses to cut through the make-believe from the outset, asserting his movie's unreality: It opens at a studio where the real-life Tabori meets and mingles with the actors who will enact his mother's experience. It's a brilliant gesture, and when Tabori is introduced to Collins

dressed as his mother, it's also a profoundly moving one.

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  • Released: 1995
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The mass extermination of millions of European Jews is hardly the stuff of comedy, but German director Michael Verhoeven has fashioned an eloquent and surprisingly funny tale from one woman's chilling brush with the Holocaust. Based on an incident in the l… (more)

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