Documentary about Fred Leuchter, an engineer who became an expert on execution devices and was later hired by revisionist historian Ernst Zundel to "prove" that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. Leuchter published a controversial report confirming Zundel's position, which ultimately ruined his own career. Most of the footage is of Leuchter, puttering around execution facilities or chipping away at the walls of Auschwitz, but Morris also interviews various historians, associates, and neighbors. Written by
According to A Brief History of Errol Morris (2000), Morris made a rough cut that he showed to colleagues and friends that only had Leuchter interviewed and it was Morris' intention that the audience would understand he was saying things either as lies or flat-out wrong. He was advised to go to Auschwitz and dig deeper so that there would be no doubt for the audience that Leuchter was wrong. See more »
Fred A. Leuchter Jr.:
The human body is not easy to destroy and it's not east to take a life humanely and painlessly without doing a great deal of damage to the individual's body.
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I saw a rough cut of this documentary last year presented by Errol Morris. At this point, I had never seen an Errol Morris documentary, but I have to say I loved it. It's the story of the man who reinvented the modern electric chair and other devices to carry out capital punishment.
The first half of the film is darkly funny. The juxtaposition of images with Leuchter's descriptions makes for hilarious irony. The shots are in and of themselves wholly serious, but Leuchter himself is very comedic (whether he knows it or not).
The second half of the film evokes anger more than humor. Leuchter becomes an advocate for Holocaust denial through his scientific (?) research for a Canadian Neo-Nazi. The cut that I saw didn't have an explanation as to why Leuchter got the results that he did until a little later in the film. I though Errol Morris should have had this description as soon as the results of the tests were determined. Maybe he changed it, and maybe he didn't.
At the film's heart is, like a Greek tragedy, the story of a man whose rise to prominence is cut short by his hybris - his inability to accept that he could be wrong. As a result, a man who was once in demand by state after state is left to rot in his own misery and mistake.
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