Shoah

(1985)

Genres: Documentary

Movies That Made Us Critics: Shoah

Transcript for Movies That Made Us Critics: Shoah

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY:
I believe that cinema is better suited than any other medium for discussing morality.  And because I believe that the Holocaust is, probably, humanity’s greatest moral failure, I can think of no greater moral problem in cinema than how to go about depicting this genocide.  Few films have taught me more about what it means to make films morally, and about the moral weight that images can carry, than SHOAH, Claude Lanzmann’s 1985, 9-hour documentary on the Holocaust.  It is a film that illustrates by example.

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IGNATIY: 
Lanzmann avoid using any historical footage in making the documentary.  All of the images that appear in SHOAH take place in the present, and were shot specifically for the film by the great cinematographer, William Lubtchansky.

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IGNATIY:
Describing an event in the past by looking only at the present reinforces the idea that history isn’t just something that happened long ago, but something we will always have to live with.

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IGNATIY: 
Building a work of art around a great tragedy can get you into some ethically questionable territory, but Lanzmann’s approach steps around the thorny moral issue of using images that represent so much pain to others in order to improve your own work.  Lanzmann’s film is a lesson in how to approach a subject responsibly, and for me it’s not only a reminder of what filmmakers can do, but also what they should do.