Two movies: Monsieur Klein & Toyland

May 15, 2020

Monsieur Klein (1976) is a disturbing French movie by the American director in exile, Joseph Losey (blacklisted in Hollywood as communist), set during the second world war during the Nazi occupation of France. The movie has an explosive opening scene in which a woman is being profiled rudely by a male doctor who inspects her nose, teeth, mouth, jaws, forehead, facial expression, body, hips and heels, and marks her as Jewish or Armenian or Arab. The woman pays fifteen francs for his services and leaves with her husband who had also come for profiling.

Robert Klein (Alain Delon) is a French art dealer who buys works of art at bargain prices from Jews who are looking to make money before escaping. He suddenly starts getting letters meant for another Robert Klein, a Jew living elsewhere in Paris. He traces his house but could not find him. He is desperate to find the motives of that person but is unable to make headway.

When Klein goes to meet the editor of a Jewish newsletter, which was sent to him unsolicited, the editor opines a friend might perhaps have subscribed for him. Klein says, “No one would play that sort of joke on me.” The editor asks the awkward Klein, “Do you think we are a subject for jokes?”

The police start suspecting Klein and ask him to prove his true-blue French identity.

Klein goes in search of the birth certificates of his parents and grandparents, and meets his old father. His father tells him there were Kleins in Holland and implies they could be Jews. He asks his father if they could be related to the Dutch Kleins and his father howls that they have been French and Catholic since Louis XIV. He is unable to get the certificate of his maternal grandmother who was born in Algiers.

The rest of the movie is about him trying to find and establish his identity, and the identity and motive of the other Robert Klein. The threat of a concentration camp looms over his head.

I cannot decide whether it is a historical or a futuristic movie. Needless to say, CAA,NPR,NRC were on my mind throughout.

Toyland – Spielzeugland (2007)

A wonderful World war II-Nazi era short flim that achieves in 12 minutes what others rarely achieve in a few hours and a lifetime.

Watch it – with children if you can.

[The film is on the link – read further after watching it, in case you are worried about spoilers.]

It’s intensely tragic but also offers a bright spark of hope. We (with our daughter) had to watch it twice back to back to let it sink in.

You can’t find a better way to tell your children people can’t be identified by their clothes and looks. And how humanity can somehow, sometimes if not always, triumph over fascism.