Claude Lanzmann's epic documentary recounts the story of the Holocaust through interviews with witnesses - perpetrators as well as survivors.Claude Lanzmann's epic documentary recounts the story of the Holocaust through interviews with witnesses - perpetrators as well as survivors.Claude Lanzmann's epic documentary recounts the story of the Holocaust through interviews with witnesses - perpetrators as well as survivors.
It is also possible to be turned off by Lanzmann himself. I've always found that an "objective" documentary is nearly an oxymoron, but Lanzmann, if this is what he is trying, fails miserably at objectivity. When he interviews the guards of the camps, he is aggressive and often interrupts what they are saying. There are two (or three, I can't remember) who ask that their names and faces do not be revealed. Lanzmann does both, the latter by sneaking in a secret camera. The guilt of these guards speaks for itself, but Lanzmann seems to be more interested in telling them what to feel, and recounting to them their own stories rather than merely letting them speak. And the hidden camera thing seems to me little more than an immature fetish.
More generally, I feel somewhat uneasy about the fact that Lanzmann has made his entire career by marketing the Holocaust. Each of his films recounts it in some way or another, and treating the tragedy as a commodity has some consequences which do not put the director in a positive light. Also, he seems to ignore the fact that less than half of those killed in the Holocaust were Jews. The film's title, Hebrew for "annihilation" or "holocaust," obviously implies that it is the story of the Jewish plight. Still, if it is an attempt at absolute realism on Lanzmann's part, it is, in a sense, somewhat reductive to refer to it this way. This, naturally, is a more general criticism about teaching the Holocaust, but I think it an apt criticism of Lanzmann, who I suppose we could call the "part owner" of the Holocaust market.
- Dec 6, 2005