Every art form owes its origin to a characteristic so deeply ingrained in the human race, that over the course of history it has proved to be the standpoint among our various attributes which separates us from all other animals – a proclivity to preserve the truth for the future generations, so as to enlighten them on the mistakes of the past generations and how to evade them during the course of their lifetimes. Literature stemmed from Herodotus’ accounts of the brutality of wars and gradually gave form to genres and sub-genres with a voice and style of their own. However, written words failed to emanate certitude, for it had to stand trial against the existence of the boundless imaginative powers of the human race.
But eyes, how can they lie ? The invention of cinema, thus stands out till date as a definitive tool to capture the truth, and freeze it forever. And Shoah, the 9-hour epic by Claude Lanzmann constituting of the interviews of Holocaust survivors, historians and SS officials stands out as the greatest use of cinema in its century and a half long history.
Speaking from a professional and personal front, writing anything about Shoah is an exigent task. How do you review testimonials of the survivors of one of the greatest human tragedies tailored to form a documentary ? In my entire life, there hasn’t been a movie which has impacted me as a human being as Shoah has. As the movie progressed, there were times where I closed my eyes and just listened to the testimonials. There was an appalling truth in the eyes of these survivors which seemed to flash the horrors they were describing. To look eye-to-eye with them was too naked and painful than a human being can bear.
Whenever I review a movie, I often find my responsibility to talk about a movie reminiscent to that of a salesman. I can spend my time praising the product, enticing you to buy it, or talk adversely about, thus discouraging you from buying it. So the question here is how can I sell to you a 9-hour documentary about the Holocaust with only conversations ?
Well, because you as a member of this species are entitled by your moral responsibility to give a damn about the sufferings of others. Shoah maybe a long film, but it definitely isn’t a slow one. The conversations are emotionally harrowing, sometimes even darkly funny and more often than not, intriguing in their nature. I watched this movie over a course of two days. At nights, I was plagued by various visions of death in my dreams. Watching Shoah isn’t a pleasant experience, but it is a rewarding one. Great movies have the power to change the very soul of a human being and no movie better personifies that than Shoah.
The only fallacy, which turns out to be the greatest strength of Shoah the more I think about it, would be the interrogative style Lanzmann adopts with SS officials. Although this method is faulty for it could have lead to clear-cut villains and heroes in this story, it ended up exposing the helplessness of these men as well. The testament which moved me the most was that of a Nazi official towards the end of the movie whose words state explicitly the torment he had in coming in terms with violence unfolding around him. Imagine the guilt of surviving a hell when everyone who you loved didn’t. Now imagine living through the fact that although you couldn’t do single damn thing about it, you too will stand out in history as a perpetrator of the greatest tragedy in human history.
That is what this extraordinary movie seems to say. ‘No one survived the Holocaust’.
RATING :- 10 / 10
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