Monday, May 23, 2016

I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life & Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal

3.5/4

Narrated by Nicole Kidman

Sometimes the things that cause us the most pain are the things that we should never forget.  No one understood that better than Simon Wiesenthal.  It would be too easy for the world to forget the deaths of between 11 and 17 million people, but a man named Simon Wiesenthal refused to let the past fade into memory.

Like many heroes, Simon Wiesenthal didn't set out to become one.  He did because he felt he had to.  Trained as an architect, Simon Wiesenthal found his calling after he was freed from the Mauthausen concentration camp.  The U.S. Army asked him to gather statements about the atrocities committed there so they could punish the guilty.  Eventually they turned their attention to the Soviet Union, but Wiesenthal wasn't done.  He wanted to track down and punish those responsible for the Holocaust.  Thus began a pursuit that lasted the rest of his life.

Watching this movie, I kept wondering why Hollywood hasn't made a movie of Simon Wiesenthal yet.  He was an intriguing individual; a great storyteller with a wonderful sense of humor, but who took two generations of grief upon himself to tell stories that the world needed to know.  With the dogged determination and pluck of a journalist, Simon Wiesenthal was instrumental in bringing some of the most heinous criminals of the Third Reich to justice, including the orchestrator of the Final Solution, Adolph Eichmann.

On a technical level, this isn't the best documentary ever made.  It's fairly straightforward and basic.  That's okay, though.  The material is strong enough that such pizzazz isn't necessary.  Getting Nicole Kidman to narrate the film was also a good idea; few actresses can promote such warmth and sensitivity as Kidman.

The film's pacing feels awkward at times.  Once Eichmann is captured and Wiesenthal becomes internationally renowned, the film moves too fast.  Other criminals that Wiesenthal helped capture, in addition to other areas of his life, are addressed, but they are not given the same depth and attention.  As a result they feel rushed.  More time should have been spent with them.  The film is only 105 minutes long as is.

Ultimately, this documentary is about the triumph of the human spirit and the endurance of an entire people.  Because it remembers that, it is a profoundly moving and inspirational experience.

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