Final Account – Film Review

Final Account – Film Review
by Fran Winston

Directed by: Luke Holland

The director/producer of this documentary, Luke Holland,  died shortly after post-production was completed on June 10, 2020. It is fitting that he lived long enough to finish it as this was a passion project for him. He began it shortly after discovering that his grandparents were murdered in a concentration camp and it was over a decade in the making.

Beginning in 2008 he conducted over 300 interviews with witnesses, guards, farmers, soldiers and participants of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. As you can imagine it makes for a difficult watch. They talk about how they found themselves in roles that contributed to the deaths of millions as they offer their memories, perceptions and personal appraisals of their own roles in the Nazi war crimes. While some do accept that they had a part in the atrocities, many refuse to accept any personal responsibility for their wartime activities citing numerous reasons, none of which seem to justify their actions through the modern gaze.

He resists the temptation to only interview men and also talks to the women who were on the peripheries of the Third Reich. The female of the species is generally supposed to have more empathy but there is not much on show here as he interviews women such as the nanny for a concentration camp guard and a payroll clerk in one of the camps, who admitted doing payroll for the workers but only putting through hours for the prisoners as they didn’t get paid. Yet she feels she played no part in their suffering.

The interviews are interspersed with footage of the era and images of the interviewees as young people, many proudly wearing their uniforms. Indeed, many of them show their medals and military paraphernalia to Holland during their interviews. They still regard their work during the war as honourable, despite everything we have learnt about the reality.

This must have been a difficult project for Holland given his family background. The film raises questions about authority, conformity, complicity, national identity, and responsibility. He never tries to make the subjects look bad, he merely lets them speak. How you feel about them at the end is purely based on their own attitudes and words.

An extremely difficult watch in parts, it is shocking to see people speaking about these horrors in such a blasé way. Even more so when that person looks like a sweet little old man or lady that could easily be your grandparent. However, this is an important film. It is rare to hear the voices of those who were there from the other side (because they are usually too ashamed to talk) and it is fascinating albeit distressing. Extremely chilling but also compelling, this is one of the documentaries of the year.

Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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