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Shoah (1985)

Not Rated | | Documentary, History, War | November 1985 (USA)
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Claude Lanzmann's epic documentary recounts the story of the Holocaust through interviews with witnesses - perpetrators as well as survivors.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Himself (as Michaël Podchlebnik)
Motke Zaïdl ...
Hanna Zaïdl ...
Herself
Jan Piwonski ...
Himself
Itzhak Dugin ...
...
Himself (as Richard Glazer)
...
...
Herself (as Pana Pietyra)
...
...
Abraham Bomba ...
Himself
Czeslaw Borowi ...
Himself
...
Rudolf Vrba ...
Himself
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Storyline

Claude Lanzmann directed this 9 1/2 hour documentary of the Holocaust without using a single frame of archive footage. He interviews survivors, witnesses, and ex-Nazis (whom he had to film secretly since they only agreed to be interviewed by audio). His style of interviewing by asking for the most minute details is effective at adding up these details to give a horrifying portrait of the events of Nazi genocide. He also shows, or rather lets some of his subjects themselves show, that the anti-Semitism that caused 6 million Jews to die in the Holocaust is still alive and well in many people who still live in Germany, Poland, and elsewhere. Written by Gene Volovich <volovich@netcom.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Details

Country:

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Language:

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Release Date:

November 1985 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Шоа  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,874, 12 December 2010, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$15,642, 2 January 2011
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Color:

| (some scenes)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Adam Czerniakow, who is the subject of Raul Hilberg's interview about the Warsaw Ghetto, was portrayed by actor Donald Sutherland in the television film Uprising (2001). See more »

Goofs

Srebnik and Podchlebnik were not the only Jewish survivors of the Chelmno Extermination Camp. Today we know at least 9 by name, but not all survived WWII and/or gave testimonies. Lanzmann probably didn't know then. See more »

Quotes

Claude Lanzmann: Yes, but do you know how many people died in the ghetto each month in 1941?
Franz Grassler: I don't know now, if I ever knew.
Claude Lanzmann: But you did know. There are exact figures.
Franz Grassler: I probably knew...
Claude Lanzmann: Yes. Five thousand a month.
Franz Grassler: Five thousand a month? Yes, well... That's a lot...
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Connections

Featured in What Is Cinema? (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Mandolinen um Mitternacht
Performed by Peter Alexander (uncredited)
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User Reviews

 
The monopoly on the Holocaust
6 December 2005 | by See all my reviews

I haven't much to say that hasn't already been said about Shoah. It is certainly a powerful film, and as far as I'm concerned, its experiment succeeds. Its very ontology begs the question of the power of the "kino-eye." If we are to compare it to, say, Schindler's List or, better, since it is non-fiction, Resnais' Nuit et Brouillard, we ask, can the film be as powerful when none of the "real" footage is used? Shoah might succeed merely because of its length, but one could perfectly well argue that it fails. There is nothing wrong with finding this film excruciatingly boring, particularly if one does not consider the experiment a success. For this reason, I disagree with the review of the film that says people should not post if they didn't like the film. One does not, for one thing, "know what they are getting into" necessarily, because the film is experimental in nature. Also, the claim that the film is too long is partly justified by the fact that it is a commercial film, i.e., distributed for viewing. If one does not like it, this is no doubt partially the fault of Lanzmann and the way the Holocaust is presented as something "you must feel bad about." Any sense of dislike or distaste does not make a viewer insensitive or cruelly apathetic in any way.

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.


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