Veteran Barry Levinson was at his creative peak in the 1980s (Diner, The Natural, Good Morning Vietnam and Rain Man for which he won an Oscar for Best Director) at his creative peak, and kept solid form in the 1990s (Bugsy, Wag the Dog). He filmed a lot later, but not overly noticeable, and now he’s back with a biographical drama about a Holocaust survivor. Harry Herschel, for friends Hertzko Haft, was not a boxer who stood out with success and the highlight of his career was a match with the later world champion, the undefeated champion (the only one with Tyson Fury) Rocky Marcian. Harry Haft’s life story (a good performance by Ben Foster) is actually much more interesting than the boxing one and “The Survivor” is therefore more of a classic Holocaust drama about surviving the horrors of Auschwitz than a typical boxing story on the trail of “Raging Bull”.
We meet the Polish Jew Haft as a mediocre boxer in the late 1940s in New Jersey, where he moved after World War II. Virtually the entire family except his brother, who is also his manager, perished in the camps, and we soon realize that Haft’s main motive for his boxing career was to try to find the girl he was in a relationship with before the Nazis separated them. He will be helped in this by a somewhat cynical journalist (Peter Sarsgaard) who will write about him in the newspaper, and in return he will tell him his life story in fragments.
And it’s really one of those shocking, amazing, unimaginable life stories about what a man can all survive. Occasionally we return to Auschwitz in black and white flashbacks with Harry and find out how he not only survived, but also how he became a boxer. Before the war, Harry had nothing to do with boxing, but in the camp, SS Schneider (Billy Magnussen) would take him under his wing and start training for grotesque, more gladiatorial than boxing skirmishes among camp inmates who served as entertainment for the Nazis. Of course, these were real life or death battles, and although the SS man exploited Harry, thanks to him he managed to survive the camp.
It is clear to us that Harry has suffered completely mentally and that PTSD is a small baby for what he is going through. Not only can no one understand what he went through, but he also suffers from guilt and shame of the survivors. so the stories of the camp survivors are no longer so interesting to Americans. Levinson filmed a striking and poignant biographical psychological drama about a man who experienced horrors unimaginable to the average man. “The Survivor” is the story of the horrific fate of a man who practically had to stop being human and dehumanize in order to survive, but the question is whether someone like that can later become human again. Rating 7.5 / 10.
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