Our online Culture section is now featuring the invaluable Father Robert Lauder's take on two powerful new films that might have escaped your notice, but which might be coming to an indie-movie theater near you, "As Seen Through these Eyes" and "Rashevski's Tango." Here's how he leads off:
Artists seem to find the Jewish Holocaust perennially interesting. Thank God—we must never forget. Filmmakers seem challenged by the Shoah to do their best work. Think of George Stevens’ “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1959), Sidney Lumet’s “The Pawnbroker” (1965) and Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” (1993). A new documentary, As Seen Through These Eyes, may be unique in this genre: Hilary Helstein (the producer, writer and director) sheds light on the Holocaust not through performances by professional actors, but through the artwork of people who were in the camps.
Before seeing "Eyes” I saw Quentin Tarantino’s blockbuster “Inglourious Basterds,” hoping that this remarkably popular film might deepen my appreciation of the experience of Jews in World War II. Tarantino’s film dramatizes both the plight of Jews under the Nazis and the vengeance wrought by a squad of Allied troops. While the genuinely talented Tarantino knows how to use cinematic techniques to build suspense, his preoccupation with violence and blood makes his film infinitely less beautiful and touching than the documentary.
While reminding us of the Holocaust’s horrors, “As Seen Through These Eyes” helps us to see that human creativity can transcend even the most inhuman situations. The film reminded me of the psychiatrist Victor Frankl’s masterpiece Man’s Search for Meaning, in which Frankl, a camp survivor, claimed that the Nazis could take everything from the prisoners except their attitude toward their suffering. Fond of Nietzsche’s saying “He who has a why to live can endure almost any how,” Frankl argues persuasively that those who would not be crushed, could not be crushed.
“As Seen Through These Eyes” is a testament to transcendence...