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The Last of the Just

Shoah - Histoire(s) du cinéma

The Last of the Just

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A nine-and-a-half-hour documentary: six hundred minutes and eleven years in the making. Shoah is the monumental work about the Holocaust for which we all know Claude Lanzmann: a philosopher, journalist and director, one of the most important intellectuals of our time. He wrote for the magazine Les Temps Modernes, where he became a fundamental figure. He connected his work, both on a professional and human level, with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir, who was his partner for six years. He changed our perspective about post-WWII reality, speaking the unspeakable and developing a painful, powerful study about Judaism and Israel, which remain playgrounds for the worst ideologies of our world.  

We do not have to forget that Shoah was the center of a trilogy that comprised Israel, Why and Tsahal, and that Lanzmann committed his long life to the deepest wound of the Western collective consciousness, without pulling any punches. This is clear in one of his last works, the daring and disturbing The Last of the Unjust, which through the story of the Vienna rabbi recounts the tragedy of collaborationists, those who have been absolved by justice, maybe even history, but not themselves. The monumental, encyclopedic and analytic work of Lanzmann put him on the same level as his colleague, the philosopher Hannah Arendt, for showing us not only the banality and routine of evil but also the normality of its spread and infection. Perhaps for this reason, because “death chambers can’t be shown, there are no survivors who can tell us what it was like on the inside”, he criticized Spielberg and Benigni for depicting the Shoah trough fictional works. This was Claude: work, research, and self-sacrifice. He believed no goal was impossible, “except surviving death, it denies you the possibility to achieve greatness”. Lanzmann’s only mistake: he achieved it. 

Boris Sollazzo

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