DIR: Gilles Pacquet-Bernier • WRI: Pacquet –Bernier & Serge Jarner • PRO: Stéphane Marsil • DOP: Pascal Ridao • ED: Hervé Schneid • DES: Françoise Dupertuis • CAST: Kirsten Scott-Thomas, Melusine Mayancce, Nils Aresturp, Aidan Quinn.
In an effort to boost circulation an up-market French weekly magazine assigns crack investigative journalist Julia Jarmond (Kirsten Scott Thomas ) the task of writing a cover story on the infamous Vel’d’Hiv roundup of Parisian Jews in July 1942. A displaced American Julia has lived in Paris for more than twenty years. She’s married to Bertrand Tezac (Frederic Pirerrot) a selfish man from an old French family. Julia becomes fascinated by her research . In particular she becomes obsessed with the story of ten year old Sarah Starzynsky ( Melusine Meyance).
It is summer 1942, ten-year-old Sarah lives with her parents and younger brother on the thirds floor of an apartment in a working class area of Paris. Panic seems to be spreading throughout the capital. French police, supposedly under the control of the Vichy government and Nazi occupiers, are going door to door arresting Jewish families and imprisoning them in a soccer stadium le Velodrome d’Hiver.
The gendarmerie come to Sarah’s home. In an effort to save her younger brother Michae, Sarah locks him in the bedroom cupboard – their secret hiding place. She promises to return for him as quickly as possible. Sarah and her parents are never to return to their home.
In her research Julia learns that the young Sarah has escaped a detention centre in rural France and is protected by an elderly couple. Sarah prevails on them to accompany her to Paris and her former home.
Several months have passed the apartment has been reassigned to a Catholic French family. They have noticed a strange smell in the house. In a frenzy Sarah runs up the stairs to her former apartment, moves the bed and opens the closet. Completely traumatised by what she finds. She hurls herself into the arms of her elderly protectors.
Sarah is raised Catholic and excels at school. Aged eighteen and in university she stops communicating with her country guardians. The younger members of this family that Julia has tracked down think that she may have emigrated to the America of the 1950’s.
Also Julia’s husband’s family have an old apartment in inner city Paris that Bertrand, her husband, wants to redevelop. It happens to be the same building that Sarah’s family lived in during the war. How have the Tezac family acquired this property? Were they willing collaborateurs?
In only three scenes Aidan Quinn plays a pivotal role in this moving story. In an interview last autumn Quinn said, ‘I took the role in part because of my daughter… French collusion (during the war) is a national shame and needs to be talked about.’
Many of Quinn’s scenes are in close up. ‘When the camera’s rolling. What you’re thinking comes through your eyes. It’s important to transmit this. It was an honour to be part of this project.’
A moving and well-made film!
Sarah’s Key is released on 5th August 2011