Shoah (1985)

Dir. Claude Lanzmann
(Sight and Sound and Village Voice)
544 minutes

7/10
Well, I finally finished watching this documentary…well, sort of. Three discs of the copy I viewed had a missing section of about 10 minutes each. (The “broken” section on disc one was longer, but I went out and rented disc one from Diamond Head Video. You can get all four discs there, but pay for each individual disc.) It’s pretty annoying. Do I $5 to watch 20 minutes of film? I’m thinking about it.

I’m not really interested in films about the Holocaust, but I would say this is a pretty good one. Being a documentary, the filmmaker didn’t have to weave in a narrative to make it interesting for viewers, which can take away from the complexity and other interesting aspects of the Holocaust. (Something I think happened in Schindler’s List.)

There are some very compelling anecdotal stories that definitely kept my attention, and other historical details that interested me (the military had to find the money to pay for transporting the Jews from different parts of Europe–not only to other governments, but to the German government as well.)

One annoying thing (besides the “missing” sections) is that the interviewees would speak for a long time before subtitles would appear on the screen. This was especially true in the beginning of the film when many Poles were interviewed. The reason for the lag was an interpreter would have to translate, and the subtitles would appear only when the interpreter spoke.

I don’t know if I’d highly recommend this film, especially since it’s nine hours long. Does it really add anything significant to one’s knowledge of the event? There were some interesting historical details, but not enough to give me a dramatically different outlook of what was a terrible event in history.

What is admirable and valuable about the film is that the filmmaker wants to document the details of the way in which the Nazi’s killed the Jews. These details make the viewer–present and future–feel and believe in the reality of the what happened. If you knew nothing about the holocaust, this would be one of the films that would be at the top of my list.

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