A nagy füzet (The Notebook)

In sub-titles, this is not a film for those with a weak heart. Families collapse, children are abandoned, and only the smart kids survive.

The NotebookTaking place in August, 1944 in Eastern Germany, The Notebook tells a garish story of twin boys trying to survive in an increasingly evil world. Their father is a German officer, and their mother takes them to live on the Hungarian border with a grandmother the family hasn’t seen in over 20 years. The film begins and ends in tragedy.

The grandmother lives alone on a farm, and she has transferred her hatred of her daughter to her grandsons. They have to sleep outside if they don’t do assigned chores, and she refers to both of them as “the bastards”.

The boys have been given two assignments by their parents. The first is to keep a daily journal in a notebook as to every event experienced, and the second was to concentrate on their studies. The boys are extraordinarily resourceful, and they accomplish their tasks while trying to live with the chaos surrounding them.

Constantly beaten by a grandmother who the local community refers to as “the witch”, the boys dedicate themselves to learning how to tolerate pain. Lacking anything else to read, they study the Bible, memorizing the Ten Commandments. However, no one follows those Commandments in Nazi Germany, and the boys learn that “Thou Shall Not Kill” doesn’t apply to anyone, including them.

The boys end up making but one friend, a young girl with a cleft palate who makes a living as a thief to feed her deaf and blind mother. She is called “Harelip” by the boys, and none of them take that as an insult.

As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but think of what is happening to young people in Iraq, Gaza and Syria today. As an example, when the Russians arrive and give the smiling “Harelip” a ride on a tank, the twins later find her dead in her hovel after being repeatedly raped by the Russian liberators.

The world was a brutal, ugly place in 1944, and it remains so to this day. Shouldn’t we as a nation be more concerned about the treatment of children than we are about the nature of the government that runs their country?