Claude Lanzmann's Holocaust documentary 'Shoah' ties together nine hours of oral history to haunting effect.
Claude Lanzmann's great nine-hour 1985 documentary on the Holocaust – the title, "Shoah," is the Hebrew word for annihilation – is being revived theatrically in theaters across America.
Despite its length, it is one of the most consistently engrossing and powerful movies ever made.
Lanzmann doesn't utilize old newsreel footage or archival material. His emphasis, in interviews and footage he shot over five years, is entirely on the words and faces of the eyewitnesses to the "Final Solution" – Jewish survivors of the camps, Germans and Poles who worked in the camps, old Nazi officials, bystanders.
Lanzmann's narrative structure is not straightforward. With patient, horrible deliberateness, he repeatedly circles back to images of train tracks to the death camps, to pastoral countrysides camouflaging mass graves.
At a time when the few remaining witnesses to the Holocaust are passing away, "Shoah" more than ever stands as a necessary experience. Grade: A (