Instead he probes this man whom history hangs over like a shroud. Yet Murmelstein is remarkably jovial, with a memory, it would appear, like a steel trap. Here, above, Lanzmann interviews Murmelstein, who was brought to trial post-WWII for his supposed crimes and collaboration with the Nazis, but he was let go unscathed. The man explains some things, while completely leaving out any mention of others. He's full of spunk, clearly loves to talk and had what appears to be remarkable recall, though whether he was a completely "reliable witness," I rather doubt. (Still, what human being is?)
I’m not sure that I trust Murmelstein's remembrances, even though, in this film, he’s all we have. Lanzman offers a few pertinent questions and occasionally tries to draw the man further out, but to not much avail. Mumelstein has such energy and drive, however, that for quite awhile he pulled me in and kept me going. But as the movie wore on, by the end I was tired of his nattering voice and found myself questioning much that he said. His comments on how laughable is Arendt's "banality-of-evil" theory regarding Adolf Eichman completely bypasses, of course, her more important comments about how the Jews might better have survived had they not been so organizedly in thrall to leaders like Murmelstein. Tradition has its drawbacks.
Cohen Media Group, in French and German with English subtitles, and running 218 minutes (yes, that's 3 hours and 38 minutes), the movie opens this Friday, February 7, here in New York City, exclusively at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal and Town Center 5 -- after which the film will have a limited national rollout.