5.0 3
Director: Claude Lanzmann

Cast: Claude Lanzmann


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Shoah is an astonishing film on a number of levels, starting with its own existence -- a documentary on a subject so horrendous, and horrific, that few potential filmgoers really want to think much about it, or the events related within. But Jewish-French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann took the plunge, head-first into his subject, in the hope that the audience would…  See more details below


Shoah is an astonishing film on a number of levels, starting with its own existence -- a documentary on a subject so horrendous, and horrific, that few potential filmgoers really want to think much about it, or the events related within. But Jewish-French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann took the plunge, head-first into his subject, in the hope that the audience would follow for 570 minutes. And as it turned out, Lanzmann's extreme approach to filmmaking was precisely the correct one to take in dealing with his subject, the Nazi extermination of Europe's Jews from 1938 through 1945. At first, in its opening minutes, the documentary seems to be shaping up as a relentless parade of interviews, all done in the subjects' original languages and translated as audio live in front of the camera, as well as on-screen. But Shoah is a lot more than a succession of talk in multiple languages. Rather, Lanzmann did what one only wishes the Stuart Schulberg documentary Nuremberg (1947) could have done -- he brings us and many of his subjects (including some low-level perpetrators) to the sites of the crimes in question, so that we perceive the dimensions and settings when they tell of the vile acts of murder and desecration they were obliged to commit, or which were committed upon them or those around them (including family members -- in a quietly horrific moment, one survivor, recalls being forced to carry out the orders to hide a graveyard, and tells of finding the bodies of his own family in one layer of corpses). What's more, the calm of the talk, and the detachment brought about by the need for translation, has the eerie effect of making the nature of the film -- which is definitely not short of striking visuals in support of the interviews -- much more enveloping than one could possibly imagine it could ever be. Indeed, by taking a broad approach over a huge canvas, but keeping the moment-to-moment emotional intensity in check, Lanzmann ends up making the unthinkable into a manageable subject for purposes of his film, and delivers a movie that accomplishes the seemingly impossible. And in the process, gradually, one begins to comprehend the unthinkable in dimensions that those present, victims and participants alike -- based on the evidence of the survivors before us -- must have accepted at the time, which goes some way to explaining the seemingly unanswerable, of how the catastophic events at the film's center could have occurred. The sad answer, as one realizes about an eighth of the way through the movie, is that it happened in stages, and little steps taken in isolation, the latter being the key element -- most of the participants (though certainly not the planners or the major overseers) never realized precisely the dimensions of the horror in which they were complicit, or to which they were witness. Lanzmann's movie ends up presenting a revelatory account of the "how" behind the greatest international social horror of the twentieth century -- the why is better left to historians, social philosophers, and theologians.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Karen Backstein
It begins in silence, as silent as the millions who will never speak again, words scrolling down the screen, preparing us for the journey to come. Claude Lanzmann builds on that compelling, powerful simplicity as he unearths the personal stories behind one of the 20th century's most incomprehensible events: the Holocaust. What you will not see is the too-familiar imagery of skeletal bodies in concentration camps or marching Nazi troops. Instead, the present-day peacefulness of the sites where the atrocities took place stands in haunting contrast to their violent history. The 9-1/2-hour Shoah proceeds as a series of interviews conducted by the very determined Lanzmann, who took 11 years to make this epic -- even longer than the war itself. He successfully urges survivors, witnesses, and even the SS men who carried out the extermination to reveal their long-buried memories. But most frightening are the interviews with those who knew and did not care or those who participated in the atrocities -- and still justify their behavior without remorse. Shoah is a brilliant and unforgettable testament. Along with Marcel Ophüls's similarly insightful The Sorrow and the Pity, it is an essential document for anyone's understanding of the Holocaust.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Claude Lanzmann's Shoah is a unique document in the world of cinema, and an improbable one. Even immediately after the end of the Second World War, when the world was sorting itself out from the conflict and curious about the nature of the evil of the defunct Third Reich, there were social and political forces at work that militated against the excessive exposure of too much film on the Holocaust. And in the decades that followed, especially in the United States, apart from sanitized, prettified dramatizations such as the American television mini-series Holocaust, there was little impetus to generate much coverage of the subject for movie audiences; apart from a lack of commerciality, producers and distributors were increasingly concerned with stirring up audiences who were concerned with contemporary Middle Eastern politics surrounding the State of Israel. Into the midst of that political world of the 1980s came Lanzmann and his 570 minute documentary, more than a dozen years in the making and too much of a heavy lift for his original backers. Even after their withdrawal, he continued onward with his interviews and editing, ultimately delivering one a startling body of work -- Shoah is vast in its proportions, just under 10 hours long, yet delved into its subject on such personal and intimate terms that once one gets past the sheer dimension of the total film, it is absorbing on levels that are totally unexpected -- but not surprising, as Lanzmann, with the ambitious length, was willing to go where few directors and no producer before him had been prepared to tread. In taking a microscope to the accounts of survivors (and some ex-Nazis and Hitler supporters, as well as participants who carried out orders of the Nazis in order to stay alive), and letting them tell it in their own language, at their own pace, and within whatever zone-of-comfort there is to be found in relating such an account, the filmmaker reveals a larger, even more elusive truth than the grisly details contained within the recollections -- in the act of assembling these stories and presenting them, one realizes that one of the key mechanisms behind the Final Solution of the Hitler government was that most of the activity toward extermination was seen from the ground, not the air. That is, that while it was clear to the victims and those around them what was happening, their relative isolation, and the incredulity of anyone (especially on the Allied side) that such actions could be carried out on a mass-scale made it possible to do precisely that. In one fell swoop, Lanzmann's efforts thus provide a response to the Holocaust deniers and others who have questioned the reality of what happened in the decades since. Additionally, the low-key presentation of the accounts allows one to absorb the nearly 10 hours of material than a more emotionally demanding approach would have permitted. Across its running time, the movie works on (at least) two levels, the out-sized and the intimate, the overlapping, contrasting approaches strengthening the overall structure of the piece and permitting this work to be palatable in ways that may completely surprise the skeptical. It's still harrowing at times, with some details shocking in their violence and horror, but Lanzmann has succeeded in creating a film that permits one to ponder the unthinkable.

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Special Features

New, restored 4K digital transfer; Three additional films by director Claude Lanzmann: A Visitor from the Living (1999, 68 minutes); Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4 P.M. (2001, 102 minutes); and The Karski Report (2010, 49 minutes); New conversation between Lanzmann and critic Serge Toubiana; Interview with Lanzmann from 2003 about A Visitor from the Living and Sobibór; New interview with Caroline Champetier, assistant camera person on Shoah, and filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin; Trailer; Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones and writings by Lanzmann

Cast & Crew

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Shoah - First Era, Part One
1. Acknowledgements and Introduction [4:52]
2. Simon Srebnik [1:22]
3. Chelmo Villagers and Simon Srebnik [:48]
4. Simon Srebnik [4:05]
5. Simon Srebnik and Chelmno Villagers [2:15]
6. Michaël Podchlebnik [2:52]
7. Hanna Zaïdl [1:36]
8. Motke Zaïdl and Itzhak Dugin [1:04]
9. Jan Piwonski [3:57]
10. Michaël Podchlebnik [1:08]
11. Motke Zaïdl and Itzhak Dugin [8:05]
12. Richard Glazar [3:11]
13. Motke Zaïdl [:40]
14. Simon Srebnik [1:02]
15. Paula Biren [2:19]
16. Pana Pietyra [1:20]
17. Pan Filipowicz [3:41]
18. Pana Pietyra [1:42]
19. Pan Filipowicz [2:25]
20. Pan Falborski [2:29]
21. Henrik Gawkowski [2:07]
22. Abraham Bomba [2:29]
23. Czeslaw Borowi [3:55]
24. Treblinka Villagers [2:24]
25. Czeslaw Borowi [1:27]
26. Treblinka Railway Workers [1:10]
27. Treblinka Villagers [2:39]
28. Treblinka Railway Workers [:43]
29. Treblinka Villagers [1:00]
30. Czeslaw Borowi [1:43]
31. Abraham Bomba [1:28]
32. Henrik Gawkowski [2:26]
33. Abraham Bomba [1:05]
34. Henrik Gawkowski [:21]
35. Abraham Bomba [1:31]
36. Richard Glazar [3:06]
37. Treblinka Villagers [1:07]
38. Czeslaw Borowi [1:50]
39. Henrik Gawkowski [1:28]
40. Czeslaw Borowi [:50]
41. Henrik Gawkowski [3:55]
42. Jan Piwonski [6:14]
43. Rudolf Vrba [5:05]
44. Abraham Bomba [1:22]
45. Richard Glazar [2:11]
46. Abraham Bomba [3:17]
47. Rudolf Vrba [:32]
48. Richard Glazar [2:29]
49. Abraham Bomba [1:13]
50. Richard Glazar [2:33]
51. Abraham Bomba [2:33]
52. Richard Glazar [1:08]
53. Berlin Dancing Couple [1:35]
54. Inge Deutschkron [4:20]
55. Franz Suchomel [15:26]
56. Filip Müller [12:52]
57. Franz Suchomel [:49]
1. Color Bars [:20]
Disc #2 -- Shoah - First Era, Part Two
1. Franz Suchomel [4:24]
2. Joseph Oberhauser [4:16]
3. Alfred Spiess [3:50]
4. Jan Piwonski [6:50]
5. Filip Müller [7:48]
6. Raul Hilberg [8:41]
7. Franz Schalling [11:15]
8. Michaël Podchlebnik [6:30]
9. Martha Michelsohn [5:30]
10. Jacob Schulmann [1:53]
11. Group of Grabów Women [1:56]
12. Grabów Couple [4:11]
13. Grabów Man [1:22]
14. Grabów Couple [:53]
15. Second Grabów Man [1:20]
16. Grabów Man [:41]
17. Group of Grabów Women [1:47]
18. Grabów Man [1:50]
19. Grabów Woman [1:40]
20. Grabów Man [:36]
21. Second Grabów Man [:20]
22. Group of Grabów Women [:53]
23. Grabów Couple [:57]
24. Martha Michelsohn and Simon Srebnik [4:41]
25. Simon Srebnik [:23]
26. Villagers and Chelmno Church and Simon Srebnik [16:35]
27. Pan Falborski [3:36]
28. Simon Srebnik [7:40]
29. Willy Just [8:00]
1. Color Bars [:20]
Disc #3 -- Shoah - Second Era, Part One
1. Franz Suchomel [17:16]
2. Abraham Bomba [18:57]
3. Franz Suchomel [7:15]
4. Richard Glazar [3:45]
5. Rudolf Vrba [4:38]
6. Filip Müller [23:06]
7. Corfu Jews [3:36]
8. Moshe Mordo and Corfu Man [2:46]
9. Armando Aaron [10:00]
10. Walter Steir [11:53]
11. Raul Hilberg [13:56]
12. Filip Müller [4:05]
13. Franz Suchomel [2:55]
14. Richard Glazar [9:11]
15. Filip Müller [3:32]
16. Rudolf Vrba [8:57]
1. Color Bars [:20]
Disc #4 -- Shoah - Second Era, Part Two
1. Ruth Elias
2. Rudolf Vrba
3. Filip Müller
4. Rudolf Vrba
5. Filip Müller
6. Rudolf Vrba
7. Jan Karski
8. Franz Grassler
9. Raul Hilberg
10. Franz Glassler
11. Raul Hilberg
12. Franz Grassler
13. Raul Bilberg
14. Franz Grassler
15. Raul Hilberg
16. Franz Grassler
17. Gertrude Schneider and Her Mother
18. Ghetto Fighters' House Musuem, Israel
19. Itzhak Zuckermann, Alias "Antek"
20. Simha Rottem, Alias "Kajik"
21. A Train
1. Color Bars [:20]
Disc #5 -- Shoah - Supplements
1. Genesis [3:27]
2. Discovering the Subject [9:58]
3. Creating Archives [12:08]
4. Funding [3:29]
5. Filming Enemies [11:53]
6. Suspended Time [3:54]
7. Editing [15:29]
1. Chapter 1 [32:46]
2. Chapter 2 [:19]
1. Prologue [5:15]
2. The Mission [5:18]
3. Briefing the Polish Ambassador [5:27]
4. One Hour and Twenty Minutes with Roosevelt [8:58]
5. The Report on Meeting the President [4:39]
6. Justice Frankfurter: "I Do Not Believe You" [10:31]
7. Understanding History [8:29]
Disc #6 -- Shoah - Supplements
1. Prologue [5:59]
2. A Red Cross Delegate [3:13]
3. Wartime Berlin [6:15]
4. Auschwitz: "Only Their Eyes Were Alive" [18:26]
5. The "Model" Ghetto [10:21]
6. The Report: A "Normal Small Town" [21:01]
7. Dr. Epstein's Speech [2:40]
1. Prologue [7:15]
2. July 22, 1942: Umschlagplatz [5:30]
3. Eight Camps in Six Months [11:16]
4. Minsk [5:54]
5. September 1943 [5:36]
6. Arrival at Sobibór [10:31]
7. The Plan [19:02]
8. October 14, 1943, 4 P.M. [12:12]
9. 4:05 P.M. [9:11]
10. 5 P.M. [5:54]
11. List of Sobibór Transports [9:37]

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Shoah 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is not at all what you expect to see in a documentary about the holocaust. It makes you understand and question where personal responsibility and moral responsibility for other people begins and to what lengths it should extend. It made me rethink what I considered I ''owed'' morally to other people and to myself. I think everyone should see this. The only negative about this movie is that the snow sometimes makes it impossible to see the subtitles...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truely the greatest rendition of the Holocaust. A must for all in the free world to see. Worth every minute and every penny spent on this documentary.
Ricola More than 1 year ago
Epic and moving.  Everyone should watch this. I am glad to see it in release again.  Thank you to Criterion for preserving it and bringing it to more audiences.