There's no doubt that the makers of The Search had the weight of history pressing on them as, in 1948, they sought to tell the tale of orphan children from German concentration camps in World War II. I'm sure that's why we get the voiceover treatment so heavily in this film. Europe was in a state of chaos - more so than we see here - and, in a way, this film serves as a call for help and assistance. Really, this opening would have stood the test of time better as pure documentary. Dropping the voiceover would greatly benefit the film, or even cutting down all the exposition in general, as the story doesn't really start until about fifteen minutes in.
But once it truly starts, the plot, albeit a simple one, is compelling and feels real enough. While the film steers away from much of the misery and tragedy of the time, it's still there, literally in the background, as it was shot in occupied territory following the war. Everyone we see is terribly nice, sensitive, and the only conflict relates to the whereabouts of one particular little boy.
Of course, we're in Europe, and there's an amalgam of different languages, even more confused by the way people have been randomly thrown together. I love that we never see subtitles - it's clear enough what's going on without them. We hear this more in the first half of the film, reflecting the confusion in the world at large. It ends up simply that English is the most convenient language for these people to communicate with.
The story appeals and works in an afterschool special sort of way, only with a somewhat more gritty topic. I feel like The Search would be appropriate for younger children to introduce these more difficult topics - the edge has been taken off, and the characters are easily understood. For the much the same reason, older viewers may be disappointed by such a simplistic treatment of a complex world. I suppose the opening reflects the film's intentions, but I'm sure another, less heavyhanded approach would have worked. It ends up a minor flaw because of where the film ends up, but it still feels like lazy filmmaking.
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