The Decent One – Movie Review by C MacNamara
Director/Wirter: Vanessa Lapa, Ori Weisbrod
Starring: Tobias Moretti, Sophie Rois
The Holocaust needs no assistance in illustrating the ghastly extents of man at his most deranged. However it does take a certain hand to then twist the narrative to the perspective of the grand architect of these atrocities, and frame him such that we not only begin to understand him, but almost pity him.
Vanessa Lapa, an Israeli journalist and the grandchild of Holocaust survivors does just that, utilizing letters, journals and documents from Heinrich Himmler’s own personal vaults to construct a timeline perspective of the man and his family during the days of the ‘final solution’. The fact that this is not a romanticized tale of monsters, where we as an audience can mock and jeer from the safety of a moral high ground is the true essence of Lapa’s film; we are not given the luxury of disassociation. Instead the audience is forced to confront Himmler at his most human; in his love letters, childhood diaries and correspondences to family and mistresses. This is not a caricature of evil incarnate, it is a man, and we as an audience must reconcile ourselves with that uncomfortable reality.
Through his personal documents, Lapa establishes a chronological sequence of the life of Himmler, as he morphs from childhood naivety, to adolescent idealist, and finally fascist zealot, gradually warping into the sadistic Megaphone of the Holocaust that history knows him as. Narration and correspondences are skilfully interjected with archive footage, strong ambience and statistical data to establish the parallel timelines of the war in the background and Himmler’s own place in it, both in initial victories and final encroaching defeat.
Above all, this is a cautionary tale rather than the nightmare freak show of a single madman. Himmler’s human qualities and sentimental letters contrast his fanatical patriotism and xenophobia, which are fanned by the fantasies of the fascist party and eventually become the singular aspects of the man. A warning of the dangers of runaway ideologies if taken to their nth degree, and how we can all fall victim to collective insanity.
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