Friday, October 7, 2011

Annie Hall was a saint.

It took me three days to get through The Sorrow and the Pity. I cannot conceive of seeing it in the theatre like Annie did.

From the title, I thought it would be a lot more sorrowful and pitiful than it was. There were definitely horrendous things described, but I was expecting more Holocaust or POW footage, not the interview heavy style that the director used. I did learn quite a bit, though. I didn't know the degree to which the Vichy government not only enabled, but also actively aided and abetted the German war machine, including the Holocaust. Collaboration is different than straight-up occupation, and I feel I have a better understanding of that part of the war. I thought that the time spent with the Frenchman who joined the SS as a kid was pretty chilling. His warning to passionate young people to avoid being seduced by ideology is particularly important, I would imagine, in France in the late 60s. I was also, of course, monumentally impressed with the Resistance fighters themselves. I doubt I could have been that brave, and like most really brave people, they don't think themselves brave at all. But, that's something I could learn from a book or History Channel doc. What about this movie makes it important as a movie?

I thought the direction/interviewing POV was pretty subtle. Clearly, the film had an aggressive pro-Resistance stance, but that wasn't shoved down the viewer's throat, Michael Moore-style. Usually, the interviewer let the subjects hang themselves by the way they described their failure to oppose the Vichy government, or their failure to have any remorse about their position at all. This was true with the French subjects, but especially so with the fat cigar-chomping, war-medal wearing, "former" Nazi who seems to have been interviewed at his daughter's wedding. The footage of German propaganda was shocking in its overt racism, and I thought the archival footage was well integrated into the larger movie. But that's sort of film school stuff.

I wish the timeline had been clearer--the movie jumps around a lot during the war years, making it hard for me to get a sense of whether it got easier or harder to resist the occupiers, and/or whether more or less people participated as the war dragged on. I also suspect (from what I could overhear of the English-speaking subjects) that the translation was a bit spotty. So, I'm guessing the book includes this because of its subject matter, not its technique?

No comments:

Post a Comment