The Key of Life

vic fortezza
3 min readAug 23, 2020

What can be done to make a Holocaust movie different from all those that preceded it? Director Francois Girard and scenarist Jeffrey Caine, whose parents died in the camps, adapted a novel by Norman Lebrecht, The Song of Names, that uses an angle that seems to have no basis in fact. The story begins on the eve of WWII when a Polish Hassid brings his son, a violin prodigy, to London to provide him the proper training he would not receive in his homeland. He is taken in by a loving family. At first the son is spiteful. Eventually the boys become brotherly. In his late teens, on the night that is to be his debut, the virtuoso is a no-show and disappears. The other boy spends a lot of time trying to find him and solve the mystery. Each, in his own way, is driven by survivor’s guilt. The narrative moves back and forth in time. Tim Roth and Clive Owen are terrific playing the men in middle age, as are the rest of the cast in their roles. I expected the storyline to be fictional. I am surprised the key element also is — at least I was unable to find any info on it. I guess it’s possible that it’s a secret of the community. According to the screenplay, a handful of survivors of Treblinka committed the names of the deceased to memory and turned it into song. In full, it lasts days and is rendered in shifts. The scene where the violinist learns the fate of his parents and sisters is powerful. Those involving music are stirring. Does the fact that there may not actually be a Song of Names diminish the film? I believe it does, although I still think it is good. Girard has 16 titles under his name at IMDb. Most involve music, including a video with Celine Dion and a TV doc on Peter Gabriel. He wrote and directed The Red Violin (1998), which I really enjoyed. 1700+ users at IMDb have rated The Song of Names (2019), forging to a consensus of 6.3 on a scale of ten. It runs less than two hours. I think it would appeal most to music lovers and those not tired of Holocaust dramas, although this one does not take the horror head on. Here are Luke Doyle, the prodigy, and Misha Handley in character:

Headline from “Students demand tuition cuts as more colleges pivot to virtual learning.” Who can blame them? Hit those overpaid profs in the pocketbook.

From an FN article: “A radio station in Cleveland fired a news anchor this week after he referred to Democrat Kamala Harris as the nation’s ‘first colored vice presidential candidate.’” No reprimand, no suspension — straight to the
chopping block. Madness.

Here’s an excerpt from another FN article: “The survey found that 86% of Americans believe wearing a mask in nearly all public settings would be effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Large majorities of Americans — eight in ten — — approve of their state or local government enacting such requirements.” I just returned from an outdoor party of about 15. No one was wearing a mask. I wore one around my neck, as did another male. He also did a forearm bump in greeting. The rest of us hugged on meeting and departure. We’ll see if it was folly.

The floating book shop had only one customer today. My thanks to the gentleman who bought The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Threefold Way of Saint Francis by Murray Bodo; a short story collection centered on Tibet; and God: A Human History by Reza Aslan.

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vic fortezza

I was born in Brooklyn in 1950 to Sicilian immigrants. I’ve had more than 50 short stories published world wide. I have 13 books in print.