The Round-Up

The Round-Up ★★★★½

Film Number 12 of 30 Days, 30 Countries Project: Hungary

Watching this movie about an Austrian POW camp, I realized that Schindler's List is a terrible Holocaust film. In The Round-up, Jancso tells the story of a prison that holds the last few survivors to the Hungarian resistance to the Austrian empire. The Austrian wardens are given to understand that almost all of the revolutionaries are held within the prison, but there are innocent people who are held as well. In order to find the revolutionaries, the Austrians employ cruel and devious tactics to break the prisoners mentally and get them to become an informer.

What really elevates The Round-up above a typical war movie is the calm, procedural efficiency of the Austrians. Many such movies (and I'm thinking specifically of Ralph Fiennes' character in Schindler's List) utilize the trope of the psychopath. The evil of the psychopath is meant to be taken as a microcosm of the evil of the whole oppressive system. But this is seldom the case. One of the epiphanies I acquired from watching Shoah was that the greatest evils are perpetrated by efficient bureaucrats, not ruthless killers. I felt that The Round-up tapped into this concept in an extremely effective way.

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