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“The Auschwitz Report.” Sometimes it sounds as if the Holocaust and Nazi Germany are exhausting subjects on screen, but filmmakers continue to go back to those dark times: The past few months have already seen the first two-movie series, “Where’s Anne Frank” and “Charlotte,” and the Toronto movie Festival passed and also brought Barry Levinson “The Survivor,” with Ben Foster as an Auschwitz prisoner under attack for what he did to survive the war. The Auschwitz Report.
The Auschwitz Report: Movie Review
The Slovak director’s “The Auschwitz Report” made a small start to these other films, first appearing in his home country in January and being nominated for a Slovak Oscar in last year’s race. Now as it receives a U.S. release, the movie is dark and disturbing; discovers a new lens at the Holocaust and tells a strange story in a way that brings home the inexplicable horror and difficulty of making people understand that horror.
Noel Czuczor and Peter Ondrejička played “Freddy” and “Valér,” characters based on the real-life of Auschwitz prison in Alfred Wetzler and Rudolph Vrba. The two Slovak Jews escaped from the camp in April 1944, taking with them instructions on how the camp was set up and how large the extermination camp was. While their accounts were met with suspicion, they were partially published two months after the skipping, with the full English version not coming for seven months.
“The Auschwitz Report” begins with George Santayana’s standard “Those who do not remember the past are forbidden to repeat it,” a clear opening line that quickly swept through the chaos of the camp: shouting, gunfire, a man hanging from his neck and choking a little, piles of corpses … in color, but the color is removed from any vibration; In most of the movie, the action plays in the mud and fog and darkness.
In this case, Freddy and Valér decided to risk everything by writing down what was happening in the camp and taking it to “important people back in Slovakia.” Their thinking is clear: “Important people will send planes. And planes will blast this place into oblivion.” And if that kills all the prisoners and the Nazis, let it be: “Forget about us. We’re already dead.”
The key to escaping, somehow, is that Auschwitz guards will search for missing prisoners for three days inside the camp, and then set up perimeter guards. So Freddy and Valér buried themselves under a pile of wood, scattering cigarettes and gasoline to prevent watchdogs from finding them for three days before the guards stopped guarding the outer fence.
The two men live in the area, as does the movie: (The Auschwitz Report) Most of its operation, cut between the men sleeping in their hiding place and the prisoners standing outside their houses day and night, at last, are brutally punished to let two of their number escape. Violence rarely portrays paintings, but it does not have to be taken lightly.
As a filmmaker, Bebjak loves to jump around time and shoot from the lower sides sometimes seemingly fun. It’s a bit of a dilemma, but that’s the point – we don’t need to understand the details of the log understanding system.
Freddy and Valér do not leave the camp until the second half of the movie when they arrive by telephone and head for the border. (The Auschwitz Report) Somehow, there is a lot of action in the second half, but a silent auction: waiting, walking, talking, typing, other talking, as men grow older and become frustrated with the reaction to their knowledge.
“What do you expect us to do?” said another official, who was waiting for the Red Cross to arrive and could not understand why their accounts were so different from the official lines they had heard about in the camps. “I thought you were an enemy,” Freddy said. “If you can’t help us, we’ve come to the wrong place.”
In a way, this is the part of the Holocaust that we are not used to seeing on screen: the reluctance of the Western administration to accept the truth that they do not understand at all. It made the last episodes of “The Auschwitz Report,” placed in bland offices, almost as horrible as those set up in the camps.
And the final credits listen back to the opening line from Santayana by playing a series of sounds from anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and nationalist politicians around the world, from Slovakia’s Maroš Šefčovič to Donald Trump. And it’s a little clearer, but it’s also a very disturbing way to end a movie that finds a new way to deal with a common story. The Auschwitz Report.
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