Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 P.M.

"Essential"

Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 P.M. Review


Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 P.M. contains no archival footage of the Holocaust. Nor does it attempt to recreate the uprising at that specific Polish extermination camp on that specific date and time by any means other than that of broad-shouldered, steadfast Yehuda Lerner's eyewitness account. The second half of this 95-minute film is almost entirely comprised of Lerner in close-up or medium shot relaying his memories of Jewish prisoners staging a hastily planned revolt against their Nazi captors. To those who criticize "talking head" documentaries, Sobibor understands that a documentary is only as important as the subject being considered. It feels appropriate and necessary to linger on Lerner's contemplation, his uncomfortable shifts, his bursts of defensive sarcasm, a bitter grin in harsh contrast to his haunted eyes. To cut away from his face, which reveals so much, would be to gaze away from a piece of history that must be preserved, contemplated, remembered.

Planned for inclusion as footage within French director and journalist Claude Lanzmann's landmark 9-hour documentary Shoah (the interview footage with Lerner is from 1979), Lanzmann considered the material important enough to merit its own treatment as a separate feature film. Those familiar with Lanzmann will be aware of his astute, philosophically charged methods: lingering images of streets and squares of contemporary Poland; long, meditative shots of Sobibor itself, now decaying and worn over by time; unflinching interviews that run for prolonged takes, lingering on the heavy silences.

Time is permitted for audience reflection during the exhaustive translations from Hebrew to French, and one of Lanzmann's masterstrokes is allowing Lerner to digress without subtitles, only providing subtitles during the translation. This may sound lugubrious, even pretentious, but the interactive effect Lanzmann intends and achieves is uncanny. Lanzmann claims to have been offended by the images of Schindler's List and Life is Beautiful because they simplify the Holocaust through pictures, perhaps in an attempt to quantify or understand the unthinkable. Lanzmann has a different, more challenging, agenda. For him, the Holocaust cannot neatly be put into a box of evil things to be neatly thrown away. There's no pat moral, no cheap sentimentality, no answers. What you choose to do with Lanzmann's time capsule is a decision for the individual viewer.

In the process of his examination, Lanzmann asks deceptively simple questions, often in the form of a blunt statement:

So it's 3 P.M...

Describe the axe you were holding.

Describe [the German you were about to kill].

How did you feel?

You look a little pale.

So it's 5 P.M...

In his answers, Lerner jokes that the entire plan worked based on the notion of German punctuality ("We knew that he would be here by 4:00 P.M. exactly! And that the next German would promptly show up at 4:05 P.M. exactly!") Grim descriptions of an axe as sharp as a razor blade or a German soldier's arm hanging under a pile of coats are punctuated by Lerner's ceaseless smile, his robust exclamations that make his body shake with vigor, his trembling hand as he smokes a cigarette. "The Jews sounded like geese when they were gassed," he says, right before acknowledging that the Germans kept real geese near the camps to cover the sound of inhuman screams.

Lanzmann's climax is sure to send some audience members running for the exit. There's no visceral shock of footage or photographs of thousands of corpses piled in a ditch. Lanzmann fills the screen with dates, locations, and numbers, then proceeds to read in his thick French accent how many victims were brought to Sobibor (to die). "Seex ssousand; two hondred and forty free; figures unknown; figures unknown; ten ssousand..." This goes on for several minutes on end, to the point where a few people at the New York Film Festival press screening got up and left. After running a complete tally, Lanzmann considers aloud that this makes up over 250,000 victims. He lets the closing credits roll over a shot of wind rustling through the trees. The rest is silence.

Aka Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures.

Road to nowhere.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.