Toyland, directed by Jochen Alexander Freydank (2007) takes you to the horrors of the Nazi era. Set in Germany in 1942, it addresses a beautiful bond between two young boys and the struggles they had to face during the Holocaust. The film won Academy Awards for Best Live Action Short.
We are introduced to two best friends Heinrich Meissne and David Silberstein. They play in their neighbourhood and despite coming from different religious traditions, the two boys have a passion for playing the piano. The bond that they share is beautifully portrayed in the film. But their friendship is haunted by a serious problem. With the deportation of David’s family to a concentration camp comes adversity.
Everyone, including Herman’s mother and best buddy David, keeps quiet about the Silbersteins’ impending deportation to save Herman from the horrors of the Holocaust. Instead, Heinrich learns that the Silbersteins will be travelling far to TOYLAND, and he wants to go along. He is prepared to leave after packing his small bag.
The movie skillfully weaves between several points in time to depict the closing minutes before the Silbersteins left and Heinrich vanished.
When Heinrich’s mother notices that her son has left, she rushes to the railway station to look for him, but he appears to have vanished. However, Mrs. Meissner gets the chance to save her son’s best friend, David, rather than leaving the station empty-handed. She does this by making it appear as though she has located her own son.
The lighting and piano melody further drew me into the eerie atmosphere of the film.
In the end, we see that the two lads survived the war and remained lifelong friends, the final scene shows two sets of old hands playing the piano. The film is not just about friendship. It showcases the unconditional love a mother has for her child and humanity.
Despite its terrible, gloomy, and tragic setting, the film’s uplifting message and moral make it a memorable work that resonates much beyond its screen time.