Written and directed by Marc Bennett, co-written by Brett Kopin, based on the book of the same name by Marvell Ginsburg, following the true story of the rescue and restoration of a small Torah from Brno, Czechoslovakia after it was lost during the holocaust, narrated by Ed Asner.
How familiar you are with Ginsburg’s book may depend on where you grew up, it’s not a material that’s used frequently in British schools so if you haven’t read it, this film will certainly make you wish you had and show why it has been such a valuable resource in teaching about the Holocaust. One of the immediate things to notice is how much the animation (by Jeffrey Pittle, Christian Robins) has remained true to the original material, using a very traditional, simple style which gives a rich heritage type feel to the story. It has such a wonderfully enveloping atmosphere to it right from the start, effectively drawing you into its world with its humble and earnest tones.
A major aspect of that is the wise, deep, pervasive tones of Ed Asner, even his voice has such a strong presence and he brings the feel of listening to a fairy tale, sweeping you away in his cadence, as well as holding a sincere authority that justifies its serious tone. It’s told beautifully, the way that it doesn’t ignore the violence but focuses on the people, making it such an accessible story for children, being able to potentially sympathise with the emotions rather than being frightened by the horrors of war. The fact that it’s a true story just makes it all the more impactful, it’s moving and heartfelt, capturing such sadness but retaining a sense of hope and sincere dedication. It represents the events of World War II in a way not many others have.
Bennett’s direction gives the film a thoughtful pace, it gives you time to digest and reflect rather than simply rushing through it. It feels as though it’s been set to the speed of the story being read to a child, which is a very clever choice. It’s a similar feel with the way that it moves, like turning pages of the story, the dedication it has to bringing the experience of the book to life is impressive, it takes a meaningful story and gives it an even louder voice.
The Tattooed Torah is a poignant exploration of the Holocaust, presented in the perfect package to introduce children to the topic. It leaves a strong impression, regardless of how much you know of it already, it’s incredibly touching and heart-breaking. The style of animation mixed with the powerful tones of Ed Asner form a rich tapestry to tell this wonderful, important story within.