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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He seems to be concocted by a joint effort between Flannery O'Connor and Philip Roth: Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. builds more humane death technology. He brings electric chairs into the twentieth century and suggests that TV sets be brought into the killing room for the victims of lethal injection. For a while, the director Errol Morris is fascinated by the visual properties of geeky, big-gummed, brown-suited Fred, who reveals his churning interior self in only one way: he confesses to consuming forty cups of coffee and six packs of cigarettes a day. He seems like the obsessive, narrowly niche-defined folk of Morris' FAST, CHEAP AND OUT OF CONTROL--AI geeks and topiary gardeners. Then history intervenes.
A Holocaust denier on trial for libel in Canada calls Fred as his star witness, proclaiming this mix of Babbitt and Kevorkian as a world-class expert. And so Fred takes his bride (the waitress who served him his daily forty cups) on a honeymoon to Auschwitz, where, in an almost comic act of desecration, he hacks chunks of brick from the deathhouse walls to prove they contain no Zyklon B. After pride cometh a fall, and Fred is ruined--and in the process Morris has minted a meditation on the roots of evil that joins together "Twin Peaks" and Sophocles.
The most tightly focussed and probably the best of Morris' documentary features, MR. DEATH is probably the most eloquent spokesman of Morris' continuing theme--the metaphysical delusions ordinary mortals use to get through their very mortal days and nights.
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