Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 20-Nov-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary-Deborah Oppenheimer (Prod) & Mark Jonathan Harris (Writ/Dir)
Audio Commentary-K Amend (Ed), G Rydstrom (Mix), C Collett (Research) et al
Featurette-Lord Richard Attenborough Interview
Featurette-Additional Interviews (4)
Gallery-Photo
Notes-The Kinder
Notes-The Parents
Notes-The Rescuers
Awards
Featurette-London Premiere Footage
Featurette-Berlin Premiere Footage
Featurette-Memorabilia from The Kinder
Notes-Kindertransport Instructions
Theatrical Trailer
DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 112:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mark Jonathan Harris
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Judi Dench
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Lee Holdridge


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In the German holocaust of World War II, 1,500,000 children were tortured and then murdered. Many more adults met the same fate, but it is especially harrowing when children are involved. This documentary covers a very small and very lucky group of children that were rescued in the nine months leading up to the start of World War II. That rescue mission was called the Kindertransport.

    I was shocked to learn through this documentary that in the time leading up to the start of the war that the Third Reich's Jewish policy was focused on getting them out of the country. The problem was that no other country in the world would allow them entry, even though the persecution of the Jewish people was already well underway and known to the governments of those countries. Stripped bare of all excuses, this fact makes the entire world guilty by association for the death of every single one of those children.

    One small light in the darkness was the acceptance by the British government of 10,000 children. The British parliament passed the bill that started the process of evacuation and the British people opened their homes to accept these children.

 

    Life is a series of events. Our personality, our spirit is the accumulation of these experiences over time. They are what make us what we are. If we are lucky, we find a partner and through sharing their experiences our lives are enriched, and our children expand our horizons further. Very occasionally we meet someone of great strength that is willing to share their experiences with us, giving us a great gift. The people in this documentary share with us what is probably the defining experience of their lives. What they are sharing is extremely painful, difficult and very personal. There is no greater gift that one person can give to another than to allow us into their world and to learn from this experience. When such an opportunity comes along we should grab it with both hands and be extremely grateful that we have been given this opportunity.

    What these people went through is truly horrific. The documentary starts by outlining the start of the persecution of the Jewish people in Germany. From here we move to the actual rescue mission and the heartbreak of children and parents saying goodbye to each other, many for the last time. We then cover the journey to England by train and boat and their arrival. Once they arrive in England we hear about their lives with their adopted families and about life in wartime Britain. Once the war is over, we then follow the attempts of the children to find their parents. The vast majority had perished in the concentration camps.

    We see the story from a number of perspectives; the Kinder themselves, the rescuers, a natural parent and an adoptive parent. This gives a very complete telling of the story and adds considerably to its impact. Incredibly, they managed to find one man that was both a Kinder and a Dinero boy, part of the group that was forcibly detained and sent to Australia on the Dinero. While the Dinero was in transit to Australia, it was attacked by a German U-boat. The torpedo that was fired hit the ship and failed to detonate. This boy then spent time in a detention camp in Australia until the policy of internment was reversed - he then served with distinction in the British army. This is just one of the many incredible stories that we are invited to share in this documentary.

    The story is told through a series of interviews intercut with actual footage from the times involved. There is a small amount of 'created' footage where original material was unavailable, but this is rare. The material that was found is nothing short of incredible, including actual footage of krystalnacht, and colour footage from pre-war Germany. The researchers have done a magnificent job on this documentary. Obviously the quality does vary, taking into account the age of the material. The simple fact that it exists is miraculous: that some of it is in such good condition is astounding.

    This documentary is profoundly moving, not only for the material itself but in the way that it has been produced. Both heighten the effect of the documentary. The editing, sound, direction and music make this the best documentary that I have ever seen. Without a doubt, the main impact comes from the incredible honesty and openness of the people that present their stories. They talk openly about their feelings and the effect that their incredible journey had on them.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The documentary and all the supplemental material is presented at 1.33:1 and is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    There is an extremely wide range of material in this documentary, a large portion over 60 years old. The interviews are obviously the most recent footage and are sharp with good shadow detail. The earlier material is a combination of moving footage and still shots and sharpness does vary as does shadow detail.

    The colours of the recent footage are good, with good skin tones and no chroma noise. They have managed to find some colour footage from 1939 and while it shows its age, again it is in remarkable condition. The black and white footage has good neutral greys with no false colour present.

    There are no MPEG artefacts present nor any film to video artefacts. The recent footage has some grain present and the old footage does have a wide range of scratches and marks. An example of the recent footage grain can be seen at 5:19, particularly on the white collar.

    The English subtitles are accurate to what is being said.

     I have watched this documentary four times; twice for the main feature and once each for the commentaries. I did not spot the layer change at all. I suspect it occurs when we are viewing one of the still shots but it is obviously very well placed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Normally for a documentary we have a functional mono soundtrack, but not here. Here we have a full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. While the surrounds are barely used other than during some music sequences, there is quite a good front soundstage present. This soundtrack goes far beyond anything that I have heard on a documentary - it is simply brilliant!

    There are four soundtracks present on this disc; English Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1 and two Dolby Digital 2.0 (with surround flag set) commentary tracks.

    Dialogue quality is excellent throughout and there were no problems with audio sync.

    The music is amazing. As mentioned in the commentary, the sound engineer and composer worked together to produce a fantastic soundtrack. They did not go overboard with sentimental or manipulative music but matched the mood of the footage with great skill. In particular, the use of low bass is truly chilling.

    The surrounds were used for some ambiance and some music but for the majority of the soundtrack they were not in use.

    There is some real low bass present on this disc and it really is not out of place - it is used with great skill to add a real feeling of menace to the appropriate scenes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are as compelling as the main documentary, particularly the first commentary with Mark Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer.

Menu

    A very good introductory animation with some still and inserted moving footage accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Commentary: writer/director Mark Harris and producer Deborah Oppenheimer

    This commentary was as fascinating as the main documentary, packed with information about the making of the documentary, how they found the people, what they were trying to achieve and much more. There are also six opportunities to press Enter and to see extra information about that particular section of the documentary. These inserts go into extra depth about a particular topic or cover outside issues such as the fact that during research for the documentary people that knew each other as children were reunited because of the documentary. The commentary is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with the surround flag set (though no use of the surrounds is made) and the inserts are presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. The inserts play at a slightly louder volume than the rest of the commentary.

Commentary: Editor: Kate Amend, Archival researcher: Corrinne Collett, Composer: Lee Holdridge and Sound designer and re-recording mixer: Gary Rydstrom.

    While not as densely packed with information as the first commentary track, this is still a very interesting insight into the documentary, particularly into the soundtrack. It is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with the surround flag set.

Biographies: Cast and Crew

    The usual textual information about the narrator and the crew but not the interviewees - they are covered later.

Additional Interview: Lord Richard Attenborough

    This interview runs for 4:27 and is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Lord Attenborough talks with surprising frankness about the two young girls from the Kindertransport that came to live with his family during the war. Particularly interesting as he is such an accomplished presenter.

Additional Interviews:

    In this section is additional interview footage that was not included in the main documentary but that is so interesting or compelling that it had to be included somewhere. All are presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Photo gallery: The Kinder

    29 still frames with a picture on the left and text on the right covering the Kinder that took part in this documentary. The photos include pictures of the Kinder as a child and then as an adult. The text gives some biographical information.

Photo gallery: The Parents

    2 still frames covering the parents from the documentary again with a photo and text.

Photo gallery: The rescuers

    5 still frames covering the people on the ground during the rescue that are in the documentary.

Awards

    A couple of text pages listing the awards that this documentary won including the 2000 Academy Award for best documentary feature.

Premiere footage: London

    Running for 2:24 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this is material recorded at the London premiere of the documentary. Prince Charles is present and meets with some of the surviving Kinder.

Premiere footage: Berlin

    Running for 7:22 and again accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this includes two speeches, one of which is by the German Chancellor who announces that this documentary will become compulsory viewing in every school in Germany. The Chancellor speaks German during his speech so it is wise to turn on the subtitles before starting this feature.

Featurette: Historical Artifacts

    This featurette runs for 4:44 and has a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It shows some of the material that the Kinder brought out of Germany with them; some toys, clothing etc. It also covers the setup and filming, using a digital video camera, of the packing sequence.

Featurette: Instructions

    This one is a little strange. It first shows the original instruction as given to the parents of the Kinder children, and then shows an English translation. It runs for 2:12 and has no audio. The only way to read the material is to use the pause button so I am not sure why they simply did not include this as a series of stills.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is quite a good representation of the documentary. It runs for 2:08 and is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with the surround flag set.

DVD ROM

    Besides giving the option to view the documentary, this includes the links to the documentary's web site. This site has some good material including a study guide. This is a PDF document that is 1.6MB in size and can be downloaded as one document or in four separate parts. This material is well worth the effort of downloading.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    Other than the obvious language differences, the discs would appear to be identical.

Summary

    Those that do not know history are doomed to repeat it. All political posturing aside, this documentary is very relevant to what is happening in Australia and around the world right now. It does not matter what your views about the current refugee crises are, when we are talking about children, all bets are off. Rent or better yet buy this disc, watch it, let your kids watch it then lend it to everyone that you know.

    The video is amazing for the age of the material.

    The audio is fantastic.

    The extras are brilliant.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Thursday, May 09, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)

Comments (Add) NONE