CLAUDE LANZMANN: SPECTRES OF THE SHOAH
Directed by: Adam Benzine
Starring: Claude Lanzmann
Running time: 40 minutes
Claude Lanzmann has become a legendary figure in the world of filmmaking, and this documentary by Adam Benzine, which was nominated in the Best Documentary Short Subject category at the 2016 Oscars, is an attempt to try and distill Lanzmann’s life, and his greatest project, into a short movie. Of course, you would probably need a documentary as long as Shoah to properly tell his life’s story, but Benzine does a fantastic job here of getting the Frenchman to open up about his early life as well as the huge task that was the creation of that documentary. For those who have not heard of Shoah, it is a French documentary directed by Lanzmann that was released in 1985, which is a look at the Holocaust, through interviews with survivors, witnesses and perpetrators, as well as visits to Holocaust sites such as Treblinka and Auschwitz in Poland. The movie runs to 566 minutes; that is over nine hours long, and is a detailed and painstaking effort which won a BAFTA for Best Documentary, as well as a New York Film Critics Choice Award for Best Non-Fiction Film. It has been hailed as one of the best documentaries ever made on a subject of contemporary history, and thus it was apt that there was a documentary made on the making of this documentary.
Thus, we can see how this is already an iconic documentary, and it made waves recently for very different reasons as well, becoming the first major motion picture, as well as the first Oscar-nominated movie, to be released as a non-fungible token (NFT). Ten ‘first edition’ copies of the movie were offered for sale via the blockchain auction site Rarible, along with bonus items including access to a director’s cut of the movie, as well as unique digital posters. It is interesting that this movie became the first to join the NFT bandwagon, and this is another reflection of the growing trend towards crypto and blockchain in today’s world, where people can even, for example, visit bitcoin baccarat gambling site to place bets virtually through cryptocurrencies on casino games online.
Benzine gets Lanzmann to open up about his earlier life, including his youth when he was part of the French Resistance against German occupation in the Second World War. He also briefly speaks about his affair with Simone de Beauvoir, but the main focus of this documentary is the making of Shoah. It took him nearly 12 years to make the movie, having begun production and interviews in 1973, and he talks about the various challenges and the emotional burden of trying to get survivors of death camps to open up and relive their experiences for his movie. He also had to secretly track and film former SS officers illegally to have the perspective of the perpetrators in his movie, while it was another monumental task to try and create a cohesive narrative from the nearly 200 hours of footage that he had amassed. Benzine also managed to secure a lot of previously unseen footage from Shoah that did not make it to the final movie, but was showcased in this documentary, with the help of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, to try and tell Lanzmann’s story better.
Shoah was a groundbreaking movie in every way, and it is therefore fitting that Spectres of the Shoah is also a pioneer in some manner. This is an excellent documentary that tells the story of one of the greatest documentary movies ever made, and thus it is a must watch for movie fans, as well as fans of history, in any part of the world.