A precise and weighty drama
LA MAISON DE NINA: How children deal with grief.
Richard Dembo’s precise and weighty drama looks at a home set up outside Paris for Jewish children whose parents have disappeared in WW2. The warm and steady Nina (Agnès Jaoui) runs the house, providing comfort and hope to a group of young French Jews who by turns express fear, sadness, and kidlike joy: squealing at extra chocolate, splashing in a river. Trouble comes when a truckload of teenage survivors from Buchenwald get delivered to the house. Led by the sinister and odious Gustav (Tomas Lemarquis), these boys — hollow-eyed, angry, traumatized — disrupt the rules and rhythms of the house and clash, sometimes violently, with the other kids. The primary question — where was God at Auschwitz — goes unanswered, but the more secular French kids do eventually achieve some common ground with the boys who want to keep their religious traditions alive. More than anything, the film is a portrait of how children deal with such grief, through violence, silence, music, and prayer.