Holocaust

review hannah arendt

Hannah Arendt was a German philosopher who studied under Martin Heidegger and whose prolific body of work investigated topics like anti-Semitism, totalitarianism, and the problem of evil. Hannah Arendt is Margarethe von Tratta’s (Vision) biopic that depicts the controversy over the philosopher’s coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1962. It’s important to distinguish the two Arendts, not only because this is a biopic and therefore encounters the potential problems of any narrativized summary of a person’s life, but because there’s a solid laundry list of reasons why there aren’t many biopics about professors – even the relatively famous ones. To Hannah Arendt’s credit, however, the life of the mind does make for some compelling drama. In fact, the film makes a strong and effective case for the urgent necessity of philosophy in the face of the most unconscionable tragedies of the 20th century.

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Culture Warrior

Of all the things associated with its reputation, probably the most immediately apparent aspect of Claude Lanzmann’s incredible Holocaust documentary Shoah (1985) is its daunting, mammoth running time of nine and a half hours. While Shoah has, then and now, been lauded as an incredible achievement in cinema, its running time has contributed to an understanding of the film as primarily a project of historical documentation. In using no archival footage and only capturing the contemporary lives of Holocaust survivors, historians, scholars, and the occasional aging Nazi functionary complicit in evil’s banality, all juxtaposed with extensive footage of the ruins and landscapes of the Polish grounds where these crimes against humanity took place, Shoah is typically understood to be an important means of making permanent the words of those involved long after their lifetime. Shoah is certainly a service to the preservation of history, and watching it twenty-six years after its original release (add a decade or less to the time when many of its subjects were originally filmed), I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these individuals have since passed on, which makes me thankful that Lanzmann made these efforts in the first place. Shoah’s contribution to history is an essential one that should never be underestimated, but this shouldn’t prevent us from examining and appreciating Shoah as an incredible cinematic achievement as well.

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Criterion Files

One major aspect of the Nazi propaganda machine that gained their support from the German people was their promotion of nostalgia. And like any form of nostalgia (and especially in nostalgia’s frequent political function), this was a selective nostalgia, decidedly exploiting certain tropes and icons of German history and heritage. A major component of this nostalgia was the promotion of nature as the means of returning to pure German identity. Nature provided a convenient contrast to the values that the Nazi party wanted to work against, and it’s opposite – the urban center – was the focal point of all they problems they perceived Germany as having been misguided by, most explicitly centralized in the supposed decadence of 1920s Berlin. The political, aesthetic, and sexual aspirations (not to mention the diversity) of the Weimar period posed a threat to the ideals of tradition, uniformity, and the assumed hierarchy of specific social roles. This nostalgic and romantic preoccupation with nature is readily available in German cultural products of the 1920s and 30s. Anybody who has seen Inglourious Basterds (2009) is familiar with the “mountain film,” or “bergfilme” genre that had peaked by this point. This genre was popular years before the Third Reich took power, and its prevalence speaks volumes to the German peoples’ preoccupation with nature leading up to the Hitler’s rise to power. Leni Riefenstahl, perhaps the most famous of Nazi-era filmmakers, starred in mountain films and went onto make Olympia (1938) and Triumph of the Will (1935), a […]

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As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. One of the three cornerstones of Holocaust literature still hasn’t seen the big screen for an adaptation. In a way, it’s understandable. No one can even agree on whether the book is a memoir, a fiction, a fictional memoir, or a true memoir with fictional elements – so making its way to the screen would be a difficult task. On the other hand, this book is so well recognized (Oprah even loves it), that it seems blatantly obvious that a movie version would be both financially successful and garner critical Hallelujahs if done with any sort of skill at all. If you put the right pieces together, the puzzle makes for an astonishing picture.

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Celebrating its 25th anniversary (which makes it a great double-feature with Back to the Future), the epic documentary Shoah is getting a re-release in select theaters and will be coming to a round disc for home enjoyment soon as well. The film is just over nine hours and has been called a masterpiece by many who have seen it. Thankfully, the trailer is not nine hours long. Also thankfully, it displays just a bit of the haunting beauty without delving too deeply into the depressingly murderous reality. Would you watch it? It’s basically like watching 4 movies in a row. You can totally handle that. Seriously. The runtime is 550 minutes. That’s incredible. Who’s with me? [Apple]

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One of more interesting aspects of the difficulty in getting a film off the ground is the battlefield of movies that never made it to the big screen. Some came just one shot short, some never even made it past the conceptual stage, but all are the What If children of a parallel universe where Stephen Spielberg actually made E.T. 2. Stanley Kubrick was no exception to the rule of false starts and films unmade. The man was meticulous, and the widespread nature of his interests must have kept hundreds of ideas from ever seeing the camera.

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We got some plot details for the forthcoming origin story for one of the most famous Marvel villains.

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