Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Specialist - Portrait of a Modern Criminal|
Actor: Adolf Eichmann
Director: Eyal Sivan
Genres: Indie & Art House, Educational, Documentary, Military & War
When Adolph Eichmann was brought to trial in Israel in 1961, the event was broadcast live under the direction of documentarian Leo Hurwitz. That footage, over 500 hours of it, has been locked away in the decades since. Eya... more »
Compelling AV evidence supporting Arendt's thesis, BUT...
R. Edward Poole | Washington, DC | 06/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don't get me wrong: this is an outstanding film, both technically (the recovery and restoration of the original raw videotaped footage, from 1961 (!), was painstaking and the results are superb) and artistically (especially in its use of Altman-esque overlapping voices and vaguely unsettling instrumental score). I highly recommend it to any student of modern history, WWII, and/or the Holocaust in particular. The filmmakers did a wonderful job of fleshing out (literally & figuratively) Hannah Arendt's central thesis (see Arendt, "Eichmann in Jerusalem"), namely that the Nazis' mechanized, bureaucratic approach to genocide gave birth to a new type of evil in the world. This "banal" fiend, personified by Eichmann, does not do evil in furtherance of personal motives or hatreds, but rather as an abstracted "cog" in a larger machine (not of his own design or making) that has the effect of diffusing responsibility (and, along with it, guilt, remorse, or any moral understanding/feeling for his actions). This type of desk-job-murderer supposedly thinks only of his narrow tasks, which must be fulfilled in the name of duty/honor and careerist aspirations. And, so, according to Arendt, it was absurb for the Israeli prosecutors to make out Eichmann as this monster who was among those most responsibile for perpetrating the Holocaust. As I said, the filmmakers do an excellent job illustrating this thesis.It isn't the film I have a quarrel with, but Arendt. She -- and by extension the filmmakers -- buy into Eichmann's defense (even if not to the point of absolving him of criminal responsibility), which was carefully honed during 15 years of hiding as a fugitive from the Allies' war crimes indictment. Eichmann has, by the time of his capture by Israeli intelligence agents, refined his script beyond that of the Nuremberg defendants ("I was only following orders"), to include the "cog in the machine" theme: "I only organized the transports; I did not do the killing upon arrival of the transports at the camps!" Of course, Eichmann downplays several salient facts, namely that he knew all along what the fate of his "cargo" would be, and that he never expressed publicly or privately any misgivings with the Nazis' extermination plans (of which he was a vital element). Indeed, the testimony of his closest associates conclusively establishes that Eichmann was, contrary to Arendt's thesis, a willing and entusiastic participant in the genocide -- among other details, there is his boast near the end of the war that he did not fear capture by the Allies, but would instead "jump happily into [his] grave, with the knowledge that [he] was responsible for exterminating 5 million jews!" Doesn't sound so banal & detached to me.In the end, it doesn't much matter how you view Arendt's thesis -- either Eichmann is a chillingly amoral man who willingly played a major role in facilitating the Holocaust, or he is an inconceivably evil monster who happily did his most to bring about the extermination of European Jewry -- and then crafted a defense (possibly as a self-defense to allow him to live with the knowledge of his crimes) good enough to fool one of the 20th century's most brilliant philosophers. Either way, this film is an invaluable window into a thoroughly terrible -- though hauntingly "normal"-appearing -- individual."
Powerful new film, of old footage
W. K. Miller | NC, USA | 11/13/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Specialist is a new film created entirely of footage of the trial of Eichmann, from the early 1960s. This is a powerful holocaust document.The viewer is invited to observe an impassive, confused, perplexed, and frustrated man. The defendant is questioned over and over "did you feel what you were doing was wrong?" He intones repeatedly that he was "a specialist," an expert in relocation and evacuation, who was consulted because of his expertise in the field. He said that he routed the trains. He said he was not responsible for the concentration camps or the fate of Jews. Watching testimony in this film can be difficult. Men tell of losing their entire families. A man stands before the court and enumerates the ages of his siblings and parents when they were living during World War II. The man is asked how many of his family members survived the war. He responds that he was the only one.Footage was taken from all parts of a very long trial, and spliced together artfully to give the viewer a picture of the Eichmann trial. One reasonable interpretation is that the trial was basically a show-- all parties present had decided that Eichmann was guilty and he would hang. Eichmann himself cuts a memorable figure: an unassuming, bespectacled man in a suit, quietly sorting through documents and rising again and again to speak, asserting that he was not responsible for the "unfortunate" events in the concentration camps, that he was only "a specialist."My only qualm with the videotape is this: the film is black and white. Some dialogue is in English, and French. Most of the dialogue is in Hebrew and German. The white subtitles on the background were very difficult to read. Yellow subtitles would be preferable in future editions. The Specialist is a useful and powerful Holocaust and World War II documentary. ken32"
Benjamin D. Hatfield | Houston, Tx. United States | 12/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow, i just picked up this movie on impulse, and ho-lee moly. After reading Hannah Arendt's "The Banality of Evil", i thought i was ready to watch Eichmann go, but [wow]. Eichmann sits impassive while he rattles off atrocities that he allowed to happen, and is thoroughly confused by the fact that he is being tried at all. Eichmann's inability to see his own wrongs is the most heartbreaking and frustrating about the picture. heartily recommended for anyone with any morbid interest in the Holocaust and Eichmann."
The Mediocrity of Evil
Alan Tischler | Baltimore, Maryland United States | 12/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have just bought and seen this film on DVD. The subtitles are excellent in English. There was no problem reading them whatsoever. The audio was very clear and the black and white picture was sharp. Given the complaints about the subtitles noted by other reviewers, maybe they were cleaned up for the DVD. The subtitles in English on the DVD are crystal clear. The DVD shows how an almost mediocre-looking man, looking very much like an accountant or life insurance salesman, could calmly and in a routine fashion, go about the business of sending millions of innocent people to their deaths. Eichmann portrayed himself as simply a bureaucratic cog in the machinery of genocide. He was, of course, under the Gestapo chief, Muller, and the SS chief, Heinrich Himmler, the one responsible for the "final solution.""