The Memory of Justice
Directed by Marcel Ophüls
This exceptional, disturbing and thought-provoking documentary compares the atrocities committed by the Nazis as revealed during the Nuremberg trials to those committed by the French in Algeria and those done by the Americans in Vietnam. The four hour epic questions the right of any country to pass self-righteous moral judgements upon the actions of another country.
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★★★★ review by JesseCataldo on Letterboxd
The side-by-side placement of interviews creates an oppositional flow that encourages further consideration of how systems of power function, with regretful bystanders and furious victims pitted against war criminals who have only assumed an apologetic air for the sake of appearances. Nazis are allowed to make salient points, while certifiably bad ones issue forth from the mouths of otherwise sympathetic speakers. This creates a complicated atmosphere that forces us to challenge our own implication within systems (be they Vietnam-era US or our current series of imperialist adventure snafus) that thrive on sloughing off responsibility for atrocities to other parties.
★★★★★ review by Bob Cashill on Letterboxd
Kudos to HBO for making this magnificent documentary about war crimes available. So much to go through here, and I hope the Criterion Collection is able to get to this assessment of the human condition. First impression: The courtliness and bearing of interviewee Albert Speer are fascinating, and infuriating.
★★★★★ review by Dennis on Letterboxd
Marcel Ophüls' epic 4,5 hour documentary about the trial at Nürnberg and the principles of justice that arose from the sentences is far from being overlong or sluggish in any way.
The several conversations with prosecutors, war criminals, judges, students, artists and even Ophüls' own family are the heart of this film, which is supported with archive footage, needle drops and the cheeky humor that seems to be a Marcel Ophüls' original.
He is also present in the conversations without ever feeling the need of pushing himself too much into the spotlight. Just as far as he needs to - he shares that attribute with Werner Herzog, whose documentaries I adore.
But from this point onwards, I'll also adore this behemoth of a documentary. This epic elaboration on the principles of justice and how we spin it and spin it to fit our needs, until everything that remains is nothing more than the memory of justice...
★★★★ review by arich47 on Letterboxd
It's tough to judge this as a movie in that it seems to be taking on more than one movie could handle ( even one with a 4hr, 45 minute runtime), but it does make a compelling case about Western failure to live up to the standard established by the Neurmberg trials.
★★★½ review by Ken Rudolph on Letterboxd
Note: I only watched on the big screen the first half of this almost 5 hour documentary. I plan to watch part two on HBO when it premiers on April 24.
This is a meticulously made restoration of Marcel Ophül's important 1976 documentary about the Nuremberg war criminals tribunals that took place in 1946. The scope of the film was broadened to examine the entire question of war crimes (alluding to possible war crimes by the prosecuting WW II "victors" in what was at the time the freshly recalled Viet Nam war.) Additionally, there were many fascinating, contemporary interviews with the surviving perpetrators and victims from the WWII era who were still alive in 1976. The restoration is pristine, both B&W and color sequences. Also, the foreign language portions are subtitled in this new version, discarding the original overdubbing of dialogue by actors. This adds immensely to the authenticity of the documentary.
Still, even watching only the first half is something of a slog. One can appreciate the attempt at including much of the proceedings from the point of view of the various prosecuting countries (U.S., Britain, France and Russia.) However, some of it is repetitive and might have been served by judicious editing. I may revise my rating after watching the second half of the film next month. Most likely upward.
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