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March 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Alison McKee <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 4 Mar 1994 17:33:00 PST
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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> _Schindler's List_ opened here last night in English with German
> subtitles.  A reporter attempting to interview people coming out of one
> theater was met with choked-up "no comments" or expressions of disbelief
> (careful: not "disbelief" as in "I don't believe it happened," but rather
> "I can't/don't want to believe it happened like that.")  My German friend
> watching the news with me shakes her head.  "Why do they act so
> surprised?" she wants to know.  Indeed, this certainly would have been
> their first encounter with the holocaust.  Is there something about the
> "Spielberg touch" that can make an experience of this history seem new to
> a German audience?
> Cary Nathenson
The question is particularly interesting in terms of German audiences, but it
applies to American audiences as well, I think. For what it's
worth, I had the same reaction as your German friend when I
watched the film during its opening week in Los Angeles and saw that for
a significant portion of the audience, the events depicted in the film seemed
to be news (or new) to them.  As human ash fell from the sky in the film, a
woman sitting behind me gasped in horror (and, it seemed to me, surprise)
when she recognized what that ash was.  The horror I understand,
but the surprise?  She was in her mid-20s, I'd say.  Did I interpret her
reaction (and those of others) correctly?  Was it genuine surprise?  Did
she not know that people burned by the millions in these camps?  Had she not
read descriptions of such things before?  The possibility that she might not
have known deeply disturbed me.
Does the history toward which the film points become real for some only when
it's rendered in Spielberg-esque (!) terms (whatever those terms may be)?
Alison McKee
Department of Film and Television