Auschwitz DVD Review
Written and Directed by Uwe Boll
2011, Region 2 (PAL), 71 minutes (Film 40 minute/Interviews 31 minutes), Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 11th Jul 2011
A lot of people will have already made up their minds never to see this film, and I wouldn’t blame them. The words “Auschwitz” and “Uwe Boll” in the same sentence are enough to put anyone off. But here I am, set to review the film and I have gone in with an open mind as I always do.
You can’t get away from the controversy that surrounded this film even before its release, the trailer led people to question Boll’s quite dramatic change in style, going from video game adaptions to a depiction of the Holocaust. Boll was constantly quoted saying he wanted to show the “real Auschwitz”, which is something he mentions in a short clip that precedes the feature. Well, here lies my first problem. No film can fully encapsulate the true horrors of the Holocaust, but the efforts in which he tries to do this are unnecessary. Shock factors are not needed in this kind of film, the explicitness with which he chooses to do this is grave and disrespectful. Showing a corpse after being gassed having its teeth pulled out is not something we needed to watch in order to “never forget”.
There are a few sections to Auschwitz. The short introduction by the director is followed by some interviews with students about the war, but the main part of the film depicts life in the concentration camp. We see a train filled with Jewish people who arrive at Auschwitz and are then separated and herded into the gas chambers or off to work on the camp. The people in the chambers are told to strip for showers but are locked in to their deaths which we see not just once, but twice. We also witness two soldiers shoot small toddlers in the head and then burn them, why this was necessary I’m not sure. The soldiers previously explained the shootings had become too much for the soldiers to do psychologically, which is why the chambers were used. I have a sneaking suspicion Boll wanted us to witness (quite graphically) a small child being brutally murdered. Uwe Boll even appears in one of the most disturbing scenes in the film as a Nazi guard who is outside the gas chambers while they bang from the inside slowly dying. Yes, a film on this subject should be hard to watch, but with no content behind these images it’s hard to understand his intentions.
Boll has said he wishes to attract younger audiences who will not be interested in films like Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful, which he believes are too soft and do not show the true horrors of the Holocaust. I, however, think that if he intends to make it more gruesome for the mere sake of it, he will be attracting people for the wrong reasons. It is unnecessary to show all the gore that he does, we are not stupid people (well I’d like to think so). We all know that this really happened so showing less can, the majority of the time, be far worse. To think we need to show every graphic detail, like something out of a Saw film, to generate interest in history is a very sad thought indeed.
Despite all this, there are a couple of effective things about this film. There is a very dark scene in which two SS Officers discuss, in a very banal way, the killings of the young children. They are very matter-of-fact and are obviously unaffected by it. They then go on to talk about their lives, their families and even mention breakfast and birthdays, but while all this is going on you can hear people, very faintly, screaming and dying outside. I have to say this scene was well done, it was subtle and shocking, in a good way. This scene is what Boll was trying to achieve for the whole feature, the casualness of mass murder, the brutal, cold reality of it all. If the rest of the film took some of this direction it could have been a whole lot better.
Boll also highlights a sad misunderstanding or lack of knowledge of history. As mentioned, there are two sections in the film where he interviews a number of students, one right at the beginning and one at the end. At the beginning he asks one guy how many Jews died, and he responds “around a thousand”. The fact that someone thinks this is the most shocking thing about his film, but I can’t help thinking Boll uses leading questions and seems to steer his interviewees in to answering in a particular way. He used these people for a reason; he needs to support his argument that we need shock value to get through to a younger generation, so they know what really happened.
In a way I can see what Boll is trying to do. He wants to throw us into this situation where nameless people are killed like cattle for no good reason, exactly how it was. The problem is the lack of context here, there is no connection on my end to what is happening on screen. As you can see there are no characters listed as there are none in the movie, thus making it less like a movie and slightly more like a documentary. But a documentary would be far more informative and there are plenty of those around. I found myself wanting to watch a decent one as an alternative to Auschwitz, and if you were undecided between the two, certainly go for that option.
Boll chose to make this film to make sure we never forget history, so it never happens again. I can understand his frustration but it’s just a shame this 40 minute shockfest is the outcome, and that he thinks it is a fitting tribute is even worse. To make a successful film tackling this subject you need one thing: respect. This film shows no respect in the slightest and this is the truly saddening thing about it.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Not graded as this was a screener.