I had no idea. No really. None. Not for a second did I consider just how unsettled I would feel after watching the trailer for German filmmaker Uwe Boll’s upcoming film Auschwitz. I’m not referring to the subject matter or the message, not the filmmaker or his previous films to date – though that would most likely provide even more fodder for this article. What motivated me to stop everything and write about a film I have not seen is illustrated by the seemingly casual way in which the filmmaker employs horror value with all the reserve and forethought of an adolescent without supervision.
Uwe Boll prefers shock value and in your face confrontation over substantive treatments of serious subjects. It is apparent that Mr. Boll intends to send a message with Auschwitz and all thought and consideration, all tact and subtlety was never considered an integral part of the delivery. I can’t help but recall the dreary cult film Faces of Death that shot to public attention and outcry in 1978, subsequently spawning numerous sequels that for all intent and purposes served little more than peep show fascination with the machination of death and dying. I’m also reminded of German filmmaker Michael Haneke’s 2007 film Funny Games – which is actually a remake of the movie of the same title by Haneke in 1997 with a different cast. Funny Games is a deceptively unrewarding film that makes sport the consequence of action while reducing humanity to the spoils of two psychotic youths on a killing spree. In similar fashion, the undeterred emotional and psychological recklessness of Auschwitz is intended to ensnare squeamish audiences and Holocaust devotee’s who prefer absolute horror reenactment to truthful performance through imaginary circumstances. Subtlety is not Mr. Boll’s forte and perhaps that in and of itself should be preface alone for the spectacle presented here.
The subject of the atrocities of World War II and the unspeakable horrors of the concentration camps is not original to cinema or the theater. In fact, there are over a hundred and fifty movies listed at Wikipedia covering the subject with varying degrees of purposefulness and authenticity, including a select minority of dissonant versions intended as superficial backdrop for ineffective and historically inconsiderate stories. Orson Welles’ 1946 film, The Stranger is purported to be the first feature film to contain footage of concentration camps and perhaps in no small way informed Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List among others. So how does one approach the subject of the unimaginable, the abject inhumanity of the Holocaust when so many others have already permanently etched images of thick plumes of smoke billowing from perfect stone chimney spires and the corpses of rail thin men, women and children gathered like cord wood?
Auschwitz in the hands of Boll serves little more than a message delivery system for that which has already been accomplished by far superior filmmakers. No one is going to forget, Mr. Boll and to assume that the audacity of your effort will somehow reveal that which cannot be revealed is juvenile if not discourteous. Perhaps as a basis for understanding Uwe Bolls’ Auschwitz we must consider his treatment as genuine in an effort to show how it really was without gimmickry or resorting to a shallow Hollywood treatment. But I don’t believe that any more than you do. What is evident here is a filmmaker of modest talent who decided to make a film that no one but the staid, devout cinéaste or horror porn enthusiast would stomach. Some films, regardless of intent fail to achieve that which they strive for and I attest this is the case with Auschwitz. The only relatable portraits of human nature are varied and complicated, conflicted with emotionally jagged edges that catch and snag with every stumble and half step through life.
Focusing only on monsters that exist without remorse and guilt, devoid of even the most remote suspicion of humanity is to suggest a world that is incapable of perspective without condemnation of the overt. Absolutes are rarely as interesting as they seem and after the glittery fascination with the macabre of this film wanes, thankfully Mr. Boll too will recede.