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March 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
louis schwartz <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 8 Mar 1994 10:18:49 -0600
louis schwartz <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (29 lines)
One of the main problems with Shindler's list is that it pretends that the
Holocaust does not effect the way history is presented. As anyone who has
spent time with surviers or researched their testemony can tell you the
holocaust is a remarkably difficult event to tell because it undermines
the posibility of its being witnessed. This is true not only because the
Nazis tried to destroy all survivors and all evidence of the event but
because the intensity of the trauma ruptures the psychological structures
that support narration. Namely the experience of the camps caused such a
severe crisis of valuation that no point from which to narrate exists
which is not already structured by shame and repression. Most of the
elements that led to this crisis are omited by Speilberg; the film has no
kapos(at least not the kind that were required to beat the other prisoners),
none of the inamtes steal one anothers bread, we never learn of the
squads of prisoners whose job it was to transfer the bodies from the gas
chamberse to the ovens. It is these details of the camp experience that
gave it its true horror and made it impossible to tell as a classical
narrative. Impossible to tell, because the Nazis turned the prisoners
against each other so that almost everyone who survived reports an intense
feeling of guilt that won't allow them to speak. The truth of the
Holocaust is not to be found only in the
content of the testimony of the survivers but in the crisis of form that
their testimonies play out when they are considered as speach acts rather
than simple narratives. That's why a film like Shoah is an attempt to deal
with the Holocaust where as Shindler's list is an attempt to blind
ourselves to the Holocaust in the very act of looking at it, so that we
can leave the Mall and go out to dinner while feeling that wqe've donbe
our bit of politics for the weekend.