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  • Gareth Crook

Shoah (1985) - 10/10

I’m going to attempt a short review of a very long film. The question to many potential viewers may well be, is this worth nearly ten hours of my time? The simple answer is a resounding yes from me. Through an extensive series of candid interviews, intercut with suitably bleak footage shot in the present day 70s, Lanzmann documents in great detail the atrocities of the Holocaust, or Shoah. It’s mostly slow and sombre, with a sense that Lanzmann leaves nothing out. All the uncomfortable pauses. Moments of dark reflection as horrors are recounted, from those that facilitated, those that witnessed it happening and those who miraculously survived. It’s all disarmingly honest. Both from those speaking, Lanzmann’s delicate probing questions and from those behind the camera, who manage to tease answers out of each subject without it feeling forced. Well aside from the Nazi beauracrat operating the train schedule who insists he had no idea about the ‘final solution’ until the war was nearly over. Or the Nazi death camp SS Commander, Oberhauser, now hiding as a barman in a Munich restaurant, who refuses to engage. Despite knowing many of the details of the Nazis systematic murder machine, to see it and hear it talked about from eyewitnesses is chilling. There’s things that your mind just can’t comprehend and certainly many horrors that I’d never thought to picture. It demands though that you think. There’s no archive, no emaciated bodies, no swastikas. Just stark recounts of hell on earth from those that endured, escaped… or inflicted. The latter of which often with a pleaded suggestion that they didn’t know what was happening. Lanzmann often passive in the interviews, clearly astonished at the reluctance to admit any kind of fault, rightly speaks out. “You were part of the vast German power structure”. Interviewees are trapped by the camera, there is nowhere to hide. This is a harrowing period of Jewish history, of all our history, but as to the question posed at the start… please watch this.



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