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Criterion edition of Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah”

June 27, 2013

Criterion, arguably the best label releasing DVDs and Blu-ray disks today, this week released DVD and Blu-ray versions of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoaha nine hour plus collection   of interviews about the Holocaust.  There is no direct violence in the movie, but it is absolutely chilling, as Lanzmann begins to approach the sheer horror of the Holocaust.

The quality of the Blu-ray transfer certainly exceeds that of any other home video version of Shoah; and this is the most complete version because it includes three related films.: 

  • A Visitor From the Living (1999, 68 minutes):  this was made at the same time as Shoah and discusses the Czech “model ghetto” of Theresienstadt, which was visited by the Red Cross (who failed to note that it was a cruel concentration camp).
  • Sobibor – October 14, 1943, 4:00 pm (2001, 102 minutes):  this was also made at the same time as Shoah and recounts the Sobibor concentration camp revolt through a long interview with Yehuda Lerner.
  • The Karski Report (2010, 54 minutes):  this is a follow-up on Jan Karski, one of the key subjects of Shoah.

Shoah is by far the best film I have ever seen on the Holocaust, and the scariest.  The subject material is absolutely riveting and vile.  At the same time, it has a slow, serious pacing (the interviews include footage of translators translating back and forth between French and Polish/Hebrew/Yiddish) that is completely unlike most contemporary documentaries.  Watching Shoah is very much like reading a book, in fact.  If you have never watched Shoah, I strongly commend this DVD/Blu-ray set to you.  If you are able, watch it in a single day.

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