Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1982. Moriah Films. Screenplay by Martin Gilbert, Marvin Hier, Arnold Schwartzman. Cinematography by Peter Shillingford. Produced by Arnold Schwartzman, Marvin Hier. Music by Elmer Bernstein. Film Editing by Bob Jenkis. Academy Awards 1981.
An unflinching record of the Holocaust that immediately became the standard upon which the remaining years of films on the same subject would be marked against, and the first film on the subject to win an Oscar. Arnold Schwartzman takes footage already familiar to those who had their eyes blazed wide open by Resnais’ short Night And Fog and gives a comprehensive account of the flourishing of Jewish life in Europe leading up to the Second World War, when culturally entrenched anti-Semitism and a devastated economy gave Nazi ideology the ability to devastate the continent’s population and take an estimated six million lives. Orson Welles provides narration while Elizabeth Taylor reads personal accounts from survivors, of life in unsanitary ghettos, deportations to concentration camps, torture of prisoners and massive killings by the most brutal and inhumane of means. Later films would delve deeper into specific aspects of the experience, but this comprehensive account is still deeply moving and emotional even while managing to cram so much history into 83 very short minutes.