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The Search

The Search

By Patrick Samuel • July 16th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Original release: March 23rd, 1948
Running time: 105 minutes

Director: Fred Zinnemann
Writers: Richard Schweizer, David Wechsler, Paul Jarrico, Montgomery Clift, Betty Smith

Cast: Montgomery Clift, Aline MacMahon, Jarmila Novotná, Wendell Corey, Ivan Jandl

The Search

The onslaught of war that raged from 1939 to 1945 was unlike anything the world had experienced before. With the planet gripped in a state of total war, the amount of suffering that ensued is immeasurable and incomprehensible to us now in the 21st century. We’ve heard the stories of soldiers who fought bravely, and we’ve watched the documentaries about the millions of Jews who were massacred at the hands of the monstrous Nazi officers, but even with Anne Frank’s story, it’s hard to put a human face to what that time must’ve been like, especially when we think about the children who became separated from their families in this war for power.

The Search, a fictionalized account of a young Auschwitz survivor and his mother searching for each other across post-WWII Europe, remains a truly affecting piece of cinema. Directed by Fred Zinnemann and filmed in the actual ruins of post-war German cities, such as Ingolstadt, Nuremberg, and Würzburg, it also features powerful performances by Montgomery Clift and Ivan Jandl.

In the film, Monty plays Steve, an American army engineer who comes into contact with a young boy named Karel (Jandl) who was separated from his mother when they were sent to a concentration camp. When the war came to an end, Karel, who’d been scavenging for food, was rounded up with other children to be taken to a home for those displaced, but fearing that it was another concentration camp, ran away. Continuing to scavenge for food, this is how Steve meets him, and when the boy can’t even remember his name or answer anything other than “Ich weiß nicht” (“I don’t know”), he calls him “Jim”, takes him home and strats trying to teach him English.

The Search

Although Steve files reports and tries to find out who Jim really is, the chances are slim that he’ll be able to reunite the boy with his family. First he has to find out if Jim has any relatives still alive. While he searches, the bond between him and Jim grows. The boy gradually starts to talk and remember what happened to him and his family. For example, when he spots a another boy with his mother, he starts to recall the last time he saw his, but this leaves Steve with the terrible decision as to whether or not to tell him she might be dead.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Malik (Jarmila Novotná), who’s actually Jim’s mother, searches relentlessly for her son. While working at a home for displaced children she meets Mrs. Murray (Aline MacMahon) and by coincidence learns it was the same home her son was at before he ran away. Although she’s mistakenly told he’s dead, she doesn’t given up, despite not knowing for sure if he’s still alive, Mrs. Malik continues to search, after all, to find him alive gives her hope to carry on.

Eventually, these two stories merge but not before both Steve and Mrs. Malik almost lose all hope that this child will The Searchever be in his mother’s arms again. The climax to The Search delivers a moment of pure joy and relief after denying us for so long that Karel will ever be able to remember his name.

Being one of Monty’s earliest films, The Search introduces us to an actor who’s kindness and sensitivity brings the character of Steve to life. With moments of humour, the script allows for him and the young Ivan to share some remarkable scenes together, such as the one overlooking the lake, and earlier when Steve is teaching Jim to read. Ivan’s performance in the film comes across as natural and at times heart-wrenching and he was awarded an Academy Juvenile Award for his role as Karel/Jim, but was denied travel to America to accept it.

As for giving WWII a face, in terms of cinema, Karel’s story is one about never-ending hope and he gives us a face to remember when we know the stories of the two million children who lost their lives in that time will never be told. The Search is one of those rare and yet important films that highlights the reality and the true cost of war.

The Search

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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