Monday, December 21, 2009

The Last Days: A Movie Critique


So this last Netflix round, I was in the mood for something a bit serious and historical. I rented The Last Days. Directed by Steven Spielberg, this documentary follows detailed accounts of five Hungarian Jews as World War II entered its last leg. The Hungarian Jews were among the last to be arrested, but they were also extremely persecuted and had some of the highest numbers in deaths.
I was completely intrigued as each person started off their story by recalling how happy they had been before with their families and the love they all shared and how they knew of the threat of the Germans, but never thought it would happen to them. But then it did and they were shoved face first into a nightmare. In the blink of an eye their lives were changed. Neighbors turned on them, they were immediately sent to concentration camps and many lost all of their family within a matter of two days.
They also interviewed a German doctor who did experiments on the Jews. He was not formally charged because he let Jews stay longer to be tested on so they would not be killed by the gas chamber. They interviewed American soldiers who helped liberate the camps and they interviewed some other very interesting characters. They interviewed a Greek Jew who was in charge of collecting the bodies and burning them after the gas chamber. His story was very heart wrenching and intriguing.

One of the hardest scenes to watch was when a Hungarian Jewish woman, whose story was being told, went on a journey back to Auschwitz to try and figure out what had happened to her sister. She discovered that her sister had been sent to the experimental labs. They found some charts with her name on them, but couldn't figure out what the numbers and tests meant so they asked the German doctor. There was a scene where she confronts the doctor and asks him what it meant- he didn't know. He asked why she was sent to the labs and/or why she was killed over and over. The doctor's answer was, "You know why."
Even though this documentary was released in 1998 I find it absolutely amazing that after so many years, that was his answer. It was so cold and unforgiving.

Overall, this was an amazing documentary to watch. Despite the heartache and some very graphic photos and video.

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