Holocaust: Affect and Absence
The Maelstrom: A Family Chronicle
(Péter Forgács, Netherlands 1997, 60 min., digital, Dutch w/subtitles)
The Maelstrom makes extraordinarily artful use of a considerable cache of home movies shot in the Netherlands before and during World War II. Information is conveyed through subtitles and a soundtrack of period sound—mostly radio broadcasts—and brooding, disturbing jazz by Tibor Szemző. We see a Jewish family first living unknowingly in the shadow of the Holocaust and then trying to cope with it, still unaware of what it will finally mean. A shot of the film’s photographer, Max Peereboom, and his family cheerfully sewing and doing general preparation for a trip to a “work camp”—when their destination was the nightmare of Auschwitz—adds a devastating dimension to our understanding that no Hollywood movie, no other documentary, has been able to provide.
(Aufschub, Harun Farocki, Germany/Netherlands 2007, 39 min., digital)
Respite consists of silent black-and-white films shot at Westerbork, a Dutch refugee camp established in 1939 for Jews fleeing Germany. In 1942, after the occupation of Holland, its function was reversed by the Nazis and it became a “transit camp.” In 1944, the camp commander commissioned a film, shot by a prisoner, photographer Rudolf Breslauer.