Friday, 31 March 2017

Auschwitz (2011)

Uwe Boll is best known for his schlocky adaptations of video games, several of which I like far more than they deserve.  He is not, however, a film-maker known for his subtlety, judgment or taste.  So when he announced his intention to make a film about the infamous Nazi extermination camp, it was hardly a surprise (except possibly to Boll) that the news was received with something less than enthusiasm.

The movie itself begins with Boll talking directly to the camera and explaining his reasons for making the film.  In essence, these are that he does not think previous films have properly communicated the horrors of the Holocaust; because young people today (particularly German youths) are ignorant of what occurred; and because genocides are still taking place in the modern world.  All of which are admirable goals, but as the confused and tedious melange which follows so amply demonstrates, he's not the film-maker to achieve them.

Boll's intro is followed by a series of interviews with teenagers, asking them what they know about Auschwitz and the Holocaust - which in most cases can be summed up as 'not much', though a few show glimmers of knowing more - then some archive images of the actual camps, before we head into the 30-40 minute section of scripted film that is the core of the movie.

This section shows two groups of prisoners arriving at Auschwitz, being processed, and then sent to die in the 'showers'.  Afterward, their bodies and belongings are stripped of valuables - gold fillings are pulled out with pliers, hair is shaved for wigs, jewelry is confiscated, and so on.  At the end, two guards discuss the how their comrades are coping with the psychological pressures of being mass executioners, as well as their own plans for escape if the Soviet Army reaches the camp.  In the hands of a skilled writer and director, this work could probably be quite stark and powerful.  In Boll's, it is just dull.

The movie closes with another long section of interviews, and a final statement from Boll that is more or less a repeat of his intro.  And then, after 70 minutes that feel a lot longer, it finally ends.

There's merit in making a film that unflinchingly portrays the banality of Nazi evil, but it requires more talent than Boll possesses to successfully tackle such a challenge.

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