Christian Krönes and Florian Weigensamer have focused on emotionality, but at the same time have avoided any rhetoric, simply letting Daniel Chanoch’s words be the absolute protagonists. Protagonists of a documentary, this A Boy’s Life, that hits like a punch in the stomach.
A child’s memories
In 2016, filmmakers Christian Krönes and Florian Weigensamer began an important journey to witness the ugliness of World War II and, specifically, National Socialism through a series of portraits of those who, in one way or another, experienced it all first-hand. Thus, in 2016, it was the turn of Brunhilde Pomsel (1911 – 2017), Joseph Goebbels’ secretary, in the documentary A German Life; five years later, businessman Marko Feingold (1913 – 2019), who survived the concentration camps, told his story to the camera in A Jewish Life (directed together with filmmakers Roland Schrotthofer and Christian Kermer); finally, in 2023, here comes a third chapter in the saga: A Boy’s Life, focusing on Daniel Chanoch, who also survived the concentration camps (and Josef Mengele’s experiments).
Unlike in A Jewish Life, in which important parallels were also made with the present day, in A Boy’s Life, therefore, Chanoch, who comes from a small town in Lithuania, focused mainly on his childhood, on the Holocaust experienced from the perspective of a child. A child taken away from his family at the age of eight and who somehow began to live again from the age of twelve, once the war was over, although even at that time there were still many difficulties in starting a ‘normal’ life again.
Christian Krönes and Florian Weigensamer’s camera focuses exclusively on the face of its magnetic protagonist. Around him, everything is dark. Careful black and white and the strong contrast between light and shadow emphasise the dramatic nature of what we are being told, fully conveying the idea of a period in history when personal freedom and respect for human beings themselves seemed only a vague memory.
Similarly to what happened in A German Life and A Jewish Life, also in A Boy’s Life the two directors have chosen a decidedly extreme and strongly minimalist approach, in order to focus exclusively on their protagonists, without any other “disturbing element” (except, of course, for short inserts concerning period footage, propaganda spots or even small satirical animated shorts produced mainly in the United States and Russia). A particularly apt choice, this one, which lends a good rythm to the entire mise-en-scene, while at the same time giving us a comprehensive idea of what the atmosphere was like at the time, both in Germany and abroad.
Christian Krönes and Florian Weigensamer, for their part, have focused on the emotionality and impact that such a story can have on the viewer, but have at the same time avoided any rhetoric, simply letting Daniel Chanoch’s words be the absolute protagonists. Protagonists of a documentary, this A Boy’s Life, that hits like a punch in the stomach. A documentary that tells us about one of the most dramatic periods of the last century through the memories of a child forced to become an adult before his time. An extremely sophisticated work with a magnetic appeal that we will remember for a long, long time.
Original title: A Boy’s Life
Directed by: Christian Krönes, Florian Weigensamer
Country/year: Austria / 2023
Running time: 96’
Screenplay: Florian Weigensamer, Christian Krönes
Cinematography: Christian Kermer
Produced by: Blackbox Film