Sunday 10, 2018
‘Watching Recollections About Mass Exterminations Can Be Murder’ 2018
A Claude Lanzmann & a Lot of Other People’s Film
As offensively flippant as that title may sound it speaks to the heart of how difficult it is to receive this kind of information.
Last Sunday at 3.30pm I started the first of four consecutive Sunday afternoons during which I will watch all of Shoah. It was a tough 150-minutes but I got through it okay. I didn’t feel too traumatized. Today I watched Part Two of what is called First Era. This means I’m at the halfway mark. The next two weeks will be Second Era, Part One and Two.
When I made this plan, about eight to ten weeks ago, I had in mind to invite people who I thought would have an interest in some that has both social and historical importance. I researched some basic facts, mostly from the Criterion Collection notes which accompany the box-set and sent out my first invitation months ago. I can only comfortably seat six people in my theatrette so I deliberately chose people who I thought would find it significant interest and who would appreciate having their eyes opened. Like with most of the films I’ve watched over the last 49 weeks, their was little to no interest.
To be fair, these people are busy people, with families. And who does have time in their life to spend watching a 10-hour film, or can manage four consecutive weeks of 2½ hours?
As part of my ‘100 Greatest Films Ever in One Year’ project, I came across a film, Shoah, that is universally regarded as both great, and important. As I researched the meaning of the title, ‘Shoah’, I discovered that this is a film that stands outside of my main project of 100, 200 or 300 films, because it is bigger than the project and more important than my attempt to view and understand the world’s most other significant films. It is – in the view of the filmmaker, Claude Lanzmann, who spent ten years doing interviews and making it – fundamental to understanding an important aspect of the nature of mankind which is otherwise lacking in anyone’s understanding of the behaviour of human beings.
‘Shoah’ is a word that in Hebrew means calamity or catastrophe. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as, “The mass murder of Jews under the German Nazi regime during 1941–5.” Shoah is a noun which also has been attributed the meaning ‘holocaust’ but Jews prefer ‘Shoah’ to ‘holocaust’.
It is also the name of a nine-hour film which interviews people involved – on both sides – in the Nazi’s attempt to wipe out (European) Jews between 1933 and 1945.
All the interviews have been archived and Lanzmann has since made four other films of interviews but this first one is the most acclaimed.
I will watch the film over four consecutive weeks due to its length. I can comfortably seat six other people in my cinema to join Ali and me in this experience. Please let me know if you are interested in coming.
I was thinking of making it four consecutive Sundays from 3pm-5.30pm:
I was thinking of 4 Sundays starting 27 May but we could start 3 June.
Sunday 27 May
Sunday 3 June
Sunday 10 June
Sunday 17 June
Sunday 24 June
My first response was one of interest, but opting out because his brain didn’t really have room to add this to everything else that is going on in his brain and his life. And fair enough, too.
The second response was one of reticence, doubting that he could do four Sunday afternoons, or four Thursday evenings, or four anydays.
The third response was one of great interest but the timing wasn’t good because of having a baby, recently new to this world.
All of the responses were completely fair and I understand where everyone is coming from even though I have two kids who are seven and five, and they’re a handful. Deflated, I held off starting on 27 May in case I felt the energy to offer an invitation to others. Finally, I realised on Friday 1 June, I’d modified my plan without having decided to modify it. I just hadn’t invited anyone else on the list I’d made and the last four Sundays before June 30, 2018 – were two days away.
It just must have seemed like too much hard work to me. Plus, it is hard getting consecutive rejections to things. This, plus an overall lack of interest – for 49 weeks – in my project and of any film made in a language other than English, added up to me (unconsciously) deciding to watch Shoah by myself. If my wife had the energy she was welcome to join me. If not, that was okay.
As it turned out a surprise, last-minute, person decided to come at the 13th hour and the three of us watched First Era: Part One. For Part Two, she bailed, because she needed to catch up on her sleep. And, of course, that was important as well.
The 100 Greatest Films Ever is my project and if I’m the only one interested, then I’ve got to smile and admit that I’m the only interested.