Jojo Rabbit and its source Caging Skies owe much to When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. The children’s book by Judith Kerr is a staple on reading lists about the Holocaust, particularly for young audiences. Viewers who were ill-at-ease with the whimsy of Taika Waititi’s (wonderful) film might prefer Caroline Link’s new adaptation of Kerr’s book. So too will audiences eager to see this tumultuous chapter of history through another child’s eyes. The Oscar-winning director of Nowhere in Africa returns with a potently realised drama about nine-year-old Anna Kemper (Riva Krymalowski) and her family’s survival.
The Kempers flee Germany when Hitler’s election looms. Hiding out in the Swiss Alps and soon a dingy Parisian flat, they struggle with the downward mobility that is the cost of staying alive. Both locations, striking shot by Bella Halben, complement Anna’s mindset through environments of openness and enclosure. The film envisions the story through Anna’s lost childhood, poignantly captured in the toys and friends left behind. Link draws excellent performances from actors young and old. The director also balances the tricky tone expertly, juggling childlike wonder with the ever-present terror of Hitler’s evil. Link’s latest film is intelligent cinema for all ages.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit screens at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival Oct. 29 and 30. There will be a Zoom Q&A with Caroline Link on Saturday October 31st at 3:00pm.