Claude Lanzmann discusses the long and difficult process of researching, shooting, editing and presenting his groundbreaking and influential documentary Shoah (1985).Claude Lanzmann discusses the long and difficult process of researching, shooting, editing and presenting his groundbreaking and influential documentary Shoah (1985).Claude Lanzmann discusses the long and difficult process of researching, shooting, editing and presenting his groundbreaking and influential documentary Shoah (1985).
Two unforgettable passages: In one Lanzmann describes how it took him months to track down in impossible circumstances a former death camp barber, whom he finally found still working as a barber in a small village. The story of how he found him is fascinating in itself and shows why it took Lanzmann twelve years to make the original documentary. Then he describes how he decided to interview this barber while he was in the act of cutting someone's hair, in order to help elicit sense memories of his time in the camps. The camera slowly moves in on the barber's face as not only his hands but his memory are working and he is asked one question after another. The gradual metamorphosis of his features from flatness to anguish is very moving. There is a sense here, and throughout the movie, that there is much more unsaid.
Later Lanzmann is interviewing a former Sonderkommando who dispassionately and off-handedly, with no emotion whatsoever, as though he is talking about spilt milk, describes piles and piles of naked corpses that were burning in the trenches. Only one thing causes him to break his poker face and speak with any emotion or force, and it's not about any of the people or crimes he witnessed but when he recalls how bitter cold the weather was.
I didn't realize how short the movie was - only 40 minutes. I would have liked more. Lanzmann is a unique artist, uncompromising and incredibly committed to the truth in all its aspects. This aspect of his personality and artistic process is worth a full-length movie. "Spectres" requires a certain level of interest and inquisitiveness from the viewer. It caters to those who tend to think and ponder and evaluate. If you're looking for thrills and the height of drama in their most obvious manifestations, you will be disappointed. To me, there is tremendous drama in what Lanzmann achieved, in the choices he made, and in his artistic process and commitment. Observing these was more dramatic and affecting to me than the most riveting thriller or even the most harrowing holocaust footage. Comcast idiotically gave this film one star in its rating - but if you're not that committed to this topic, or to inquiries about the nature of art and people, and you just want to be entertained, you may not love it either.
- May 13, 2016