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Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Eichmann Show and Entertainment: "Nazis. I hate these guys."

pictures from Life Magazine

I watched The Eichmann Show on BBC the other night. It told the story of the trial in 1961 of Adolf Eichmann (the SS commander who oversaw the deportation and transport of Jews to Concentration Camps in Eastern Europe), and how this trial came to be shown on television screens around the world and became the first globally watched documentary, one that helped transform the way in which the Holocaust and Survivors were regarded.

The acting was fantastic, it was beautifully shot and it recognised the power of the story it was telling. So original footage of the trial, and original testimony was integrated wonderfully into the drama.

There was a focus on the face of Eichmann, but also with how you can show this trial of horrendous events in a way to touch the hearts of people around the world (people who during the early stages of the trial were more interested in the Bay of Pigs fiasco and Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space).

This was a telling exchange, when a witness collapses during the trial and Milton Fruchtmann asks the director Leo Hurwitz, who has the cameras focussed on the blank-faced Eichmann if he got the shot. Hurwits, however, is obsessed by Eichmann . The camera's are on the SS man as Hurwitz waits for an emotional response to show he's human.

Milton: Did you get it?

Leo: We got almost everything but I think we missed the collapse.

Milton: Missed the collapse. Jesus, Leo.

Leo: We got a couple of seconds of it, but it's impossible to anticipate something like that. 

Milton: That was a stand-out moment, Leo, like someone crying out in the auditorium. Talking points. Human drama.

Leo: That's a real damaged life in there, not a fucking TV show. 

Milton: And a fucking TV show. AND. AND.

I think the exchange says something we could sometimes remember about documentary. Even with the grimmest of subjects, it needs to be engaging. It needs to be a TV show.

Watch the Eichmann show here if you're in the UK.

If you're not in the UK, Congratulations, have some nice food or go for a decent coffee or sit in the sun. Do something nice like that instead.

And here's my review of Wolf Hall, which showed on BBC TV last night; like Stanley! Flat.


Deborah Parkin Photography said...

Like you I found this to be absolutely gripping. I too loved that dialogue about it being a TV show- it was so revealing - almost like an internal monologue where we fight & argue over our morals as photographers - trying to stay 'moralistic' - yes, that was a human being suffering & we should care & yet, if we don't have the audience we have in some ways lost the ability to tell the story.
Writing about the Holocaust is always tricky - language insufficient to portray such horrors & trying to reach an audience that has possibly become desensitised to graphic images of murder by using images that have been broadcast for decades is no easy task - but this succeeded, at least I felt it did.
I watched this again with my teenage son after school yesterday. It was interesting to see someones reaction to this - someone who hasn't really seen images of the holocaust & only knows it by name. Like Hurwitz, my son was wanting to see a reaction from Eichmann & was constantly asking questions about why he would do this - questions I have almost stopped asking.
I thought their use of photography was intelligently used too - they were briefly put up but there long enough to live with you - like women standing in line before a mass grave, clutching their baby. A very thought-provoking program.

colin pantall said...

Thanks Deborah. The use of photography was interesting too - recognised lots of the images and footage. I wasn't sure if some of the colour footage wasn't original material. It looked it.