Monday, April 4, 2011

Karski Report (2010)

Shot for Claude Lanzmann's film Shoah, but cut because the tone of the interview was very different than the day before, Lanzmann realized that he had to do something with the footage. Cutting it together and releasing it as a 49 minute film, he has made one of the most amazing documentaries I've ever seen. Simply put it's a film that has completely changed how I see the Second World War...and everything that has happened since then.

The film is simply Jan Karski relating what happened when he got out of Poland during the war, and was sent from England to the United States to tell what was going on. It is for the most part Karski simply sitting and talking to Lanzmann. Karski goes through everything from his time in Poland on to his meeting with at-the-time United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Then things become interesting. After meeting FDR, Karski was shunted off to any number of people to whom he told his story. Eventually he met Felix Frankfurter, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and it's at this point the film and the world changed for me.

At this moment Karski becomes animated. He now begins to act out and explain how the meeting happened...and how the enormity of the horror of the Final Solution was beyond understanding. In simply explaining what happened when he meet Frankfurter, Karski explains why no one, even people who saw what happened, truly understand it.

Karski is told "I didn't say you were lying, I said I didn't believe you" by the Justice, a man who knew, or thought he knew, how low mankind could go. In listening to Karski he realized that there was levels of blackness he never imagined. If he believed what he was being told then everything Frankfurter knew about humanity was wrong. Sure everyone knew what was going on, but no one could handle what it meant...

...even Karski, who said he refused to deal with what he saw and experienced for many decades.

Will this film rock your world like it rocked mine? I don't know. If you are not a student of history and you are not aware of the implications of what Karski is saying, it may not. On the other hand if you are willing to take in what is being said and process it I think this film will leave you shattered.

This is one of the best films I've seen in 2011.

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