55. “Shoah”, Claude Lanzmann (1985)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list



dir. Claude Lanzmann cin. Dominique Chapuis, Jimmy Glasburg, Phil Gries, and William Lubtchansky

In 100 words: Monumental, harrowing, and impactful, Shoah is the ultimate film about the Holocaust. Lanzmann’s exhaustive footage captures excellent reflections from survivors, grieving families of victims, and even manages to get interviews with perpetrators, all to devastating effect. It builds and builds, interweaving the discussions with footage of concentration camps. The way he edits the narration, the sound, and trains his camera on these spaces feel majestic but haunting, that even years after the trauma and nature has taken back some of the sites, they obviously still carry the scars of the past. It’s the greatest ten-hours of cinema ever put together.

Other Movies for Context: I think in terms of the Holocaust, few are as this complete and this impressively constructed. Resnais’s Night and Fog (1956) is a great distillation of the event, in a shorter timespan. Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993) is perhaps the best Holocaust film that is fictionalized (although based on the real life story, obviously) that I’ve seen. In any case, everyone needs to see Shoah: it’s simply a landmark.

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