Shoah (1985)

Feature Documentary | France
English, French, German, Hebrew, Polish, & Yiddish | 9h30m
Dir: Claude Lanzmann | Ph: Dominique Chapuis, Jimmy Glasberg, & William Lubtchansky | Ed: Ziva Postec | Snd: Danielle Fillios, Anne-Marie L'hôte, & Sabine Mamou

Informative, horrifying, and of vital importance, Shoah is without doubt a truly great work. Composed of in-depth, barely edited interview footage (with a host of survivors, bystanders, and perpetrators) and formally elegant yet discomfiting landscape photography – all ominous tracking shots and inquisitive pans – Lanzmann’s nine and a half hour, twelve years in the making masterpiece slowly paints a picture of the holocaust without ever having to resort to the use of emotive archival footage. Under the gentle but oft insistent prodding of Lanzmann, the majority of the interview subjects remember their wartime experiences with surprisingly composed candour, recalling with great clarity their time spent in Auschwitz, Treblinka, the Warsaw Ghetto, and elsewhere. However, one or two become overwhelmed by the experience and breakdown. (Is there any sight more upsetting than that of an old man crying?) Devastating.