A stark tale of the damaged human psyche
K. D. Kelly | sf, ca | 04/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I can think of no better example than "Gray Matter" to illustrate mankind's unwillingness to learn from (or even lend an ear to) its mistakes and that at heart we are merely beasts, malicious and cold to the core. This documentary exploring an Austrian doctor tied in with and most likely the driving force behind the killing of and experimentation on hundreds of children during the Nazi era and beyond contains many horrific moments. Just the idea alone that there exists enough literature and evidence, not to mention firsthand witness accounts, to prove Dr. Heinrich Gross' guilt many times over, yet Gross has never been convicted on any counts causes double-takes, jaws to drop and hairs to stand on end. In fact, the last time Gross was brought to stand on trial, in 2003, the case was dismissed; he was determined not fit to stand trial because he was hard of hearing and the judge had positioned him at a conspicuously safe distance from the bench. The survivors' accounts of what went on in the mental hospital run by Gross are hard to bear, especially that of a former patient who delivers his horror story in a deadpan manner. An interesting point in the film -- one that underlines the director's attempt to stay objective -- is an interview with Gross' lawyer, who charges that his client is innocent of any crimes because he hasn't ever been convicted, and seems sincere. What the film doesn't say but implies is that there is something inherently wrong with the nation of Austria. Whereas Germany has genuinely apologized for the crimes of its former dictator and attempted to right some wrongs, Austria, by the fact that it never relinquished the pension it paid Gross while he was alive, and in fact continues to defend his work (which Gross continued on the Nazi-era murdered children's brains into the 1990s, mind you) and remained tight-lipped as to his whereabouts until he died this past December, as if he was some kind of mob boss, seems to be built of a damaged psyche. Maybe something in the soil that got in the water? Any more direct conclusions would only be playing the same blame and slay game."