Stan Original Series The Tattooist of Auschwitz is difficult viewing, but you won’t be able to look away.

There's a somewhat subdued energy bubbling under the surface as a group gathers in the darkened lobby of an underground screening room.

People sip coffee, mumble pleasantries to one another, pick at a selection of pastries and fruits on offer.

To see us, you couldn't predict why we were there. After all, as entertainment journalists stepping away from the office on a Thursday morning to watch the first episodes in a highly anticipated new TV series, you might expect a rowdier bunch.

And yet, the mood is sombre.

We all want to be there, mind you; but some invisible thread is pulling us to the door, back to the well-lit street, as we shuffle into the screening room, knowing that what awaits us is going to be... intense. We're here to watch the new Stan Original Series, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and we're under no false illusions about the emotion we're about to experience over the next couple of hours. 

Watch The Tattooist of Auschwitz on Stan trailer. Post continues below. 

Based on the global bestseller by New Zealand author Heather Morris, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is inspired by the real-life story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, who met while they were prisoners in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during the Holocaust. 

Tasked with tattooing identification numbers on the arms of incoming prisoners, Lale uses his "elevated" position to barter goods and favours in an effort to ensure the survival of himself and others in the camp. Amidst the horrors (and yes, there are many) of the concentration camp, Lale meets and falls in love with a fellow prisoner named Gita. 


Their love story becomes a beacon of hope in the midst of unimaginable suffering.

The Tattooist if Auschwitz. Image: Stan.

It is brutal. It is heartbreaking. And it is real. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an exploration of Lale's memories, brought to life first on the page in Morris' novel, and now captured for TV audiences — something that was always on the cards, says Morris.

"Twenty years ago, Lale and I started going to film theatres, every new release movie, because he wanted to see his story played on the screen," she shared. "He had lots of fun trying to choose the perfect person in his mind to play Lale and Gita."

For Lale, Natalie Portman was the perfect Gita, while he joked that Brad Pitt (and later Ryan Gosling) should portray Lale. And while the series wasn't made until after Lale passed away in 2006 (and ageing all three Hollywood stars out of the roles), there is no question the two stars of the series are the perfect picks. 


Jonah Hauer-King plays young Lale (who you may recognise from his turn as Eric in The Little Mermaid, as well as his roles in The Flatshare and World on Fire) and brings both a gentleness and strength to a role that he has said has been his most difficult to date. But for Morris, he delivered the perfect portrayal of the man she knew. "I met [Hauer-King] and spent time with him in London, and immediately went, he's the one. He ticked every box," Morris told Mamamia.

Opposite Hauer-King as Gita, Anna Próchniak is a vibrant spark, and genuinely shines on screen, emitting a lightness and hope to keep viewers afloat amidst the terrifying backdrop of daily life at the concentration camp.

And Harvey Keitel as old Lale is simply brilliant. 

"Having seen Harvey and how he's portrayed Lale, the man that I knew — that is incredibly emotional for me," Morris told Mamamia. "He went above and beyond."

Harvey Keitel and Melanie Lynsky in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Image: Stan.

Fans of the book might wonder at the inclusion of 'old Lale', and this is where the TV adaptation strays from the novel slightly. While Morris' book is written from Lale's point of view, during his youth, screenwriter Jacquelin Perske chose to take things in a slightly different direction. 


"I read the book, which was already very successful, and I thought it was an extraordinary story," she shared. "But as I delved into it I really wanted to meet Heather. We sat down together and she started to tell me the story of how she met Lale and their friendship, and how she managed to get this extraordinary story out of this man, I thought, this is an amazing story that should be a part of the show.

"A huge part of this story is not just Lale and Gita's extraordinary life and love, but also how it came to us in book form thanks to Heather's work and love for Lale."

New Zealand actor Melanie Lynskey stepped into the role of Heather — and while it was "super weird" to see herself portrayed on screen, Morris told Mamamia, Lynskey did a beautiful job. "She was very intimidated and quite sort of concerned about portraying somebody who was still living — something she'd never done before," Morris said.

Make no mistake:The Tattooist of Auschwitz is not easy viewing. But it is brilliantly executed, and is guaranteed to stay with you long after the TV is turned off. 

The guards' lack of humanity is chilling. The devastating knowledge underpinning the show — that is all based on true events — will bring viewers to tears. It is unflinchingly real and doesn't try to soften the atrocious reality Lale, Gita and the other prisoners experienced.

But that is why it's important not to look away; to see what happened through the eyes of someone who lived it, just as Lale had hoped.

As Morris told Mamamia of watching the series for the first time, "This was what Lale and I had dreamed about."

Stan Original Series The Tattooist of Auschwitz is now streaming, only on Stan.

Feature image: Stan.

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