Not A Fucking Sound



This chilling opus by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy BeastUnder the Skin) reframes the traditional Passover question, "Why is this Holocaust-themed film different from all other Holocaust-themed films?" with subtle and meticulously composed shots of a pastoral Germanic Eden literally on the doorstep of Auschwitz -- a Hellscape which is never actually shown explicitly, except in (spoiler alert) contemporary shots at the end of Polish cleaning women working their industrial magic (clearly a metaphor) inside a disused gas chamber at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum. The unsettling sound design by Johnnie Burn, a David Lynch-ian Alan Splet-like montage of rumbling furnaces, muted cries and screams, pistol shots, trains arriving and departing, guards and kapos barking orders, et al., is buried with one notable exception well down in the mix, just hinting at the absolute forces of evil at play next door. The matter-of-fact quotidian family life of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss, his wife, and children is counterpoised with what we know all too well is going on behind their walled-off manor house (well, some of us, anyway -- the actual level of Holocaust awareness among young people in this country is shockingly low:, tragically underscoring Hannah Arendt's controversial The Banality of Evil indictment of Adolph Eichmann, principal architect of the Nazi's mechanized slaughter, who is duly referenced in the film. Given the current conflict in the Middle East, in which the simplistic traditional Heroes and Villains' long view of History has been knocked into a cocked hat (on the order of both sides are horrific, but One side is more horrific than the Other) and the appalling contemporary Holocaust amnesia afoot, this is an essential and timely film. But I fear it will go largely unwatched. It's been out theatrically in NYC for two days now and only running in two theaters in Manhattan -- but despite pretty much excellent reviews everywhere (saving the NY Times), there was a noticeable paucity of attendees at the 4pm matinee today at the Angelika. Maybe folks are just too numb at this point (Dead Jews are just so THEN, you know?). Or else folks are craving another colorful Tarantino rewrite of history, pace Inglorious Basterds as a safe space to crawl into now. But I can tell you -- the people who WERE there today did not make a fucking sound during the entire screening. The end title music by composer Mica Levi, a vortex of human agony (not unakin to, but more the obverse of György Ligeti's "Kyrie" as deployed in Kubrick's 2001) pretty much says it all.

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