by Aldo Padilla

During the British parliament shooting, a photography of an Islamic women that seemed to look indifferent in front of a wounded man while many people were helping him became viral. Social media judgment came almost immediately, an event that showed that an image is not always worth a thousand words. The detail of such image became apparent days later, when a close up of such woman indicated true horror in front of what was happening.

How much can really a static or moving image tell us? Can we really give an absolute judgement with or without context of such scenes? Loznitsa deals with this question and allows us to make a judgement on the images of a group of tourists that walk among what was once a concentration camp for Jewish people in World War II. During the footage we see in fixed long shots the tourists watching loosely the different scenarios that once were witness of the horror of genocide; we see them taking almost random pictures of places that seem to have an historic value, posing to the camera trying to get that memory to relate to them.

It’s during this point where the doubt and indignation for the banality seen of the film leads us to the great question, how much reality is transmitted in those images? Is the banality really shown in the tourist or from the editing of the filmmaker? The first minutes where we have no background seem to indicate a sentence from the director to his characters, where their attitude seems to imply they’re dealing with any touristic attraction, like the beach or a museum of a famous character. While only the black and white represents some solemnity, that is contrasted with the image of a boy with a t-shirt with “Cool Story Bro” printed in the fabric. And it is there where doubt arises on the discourse that Loznitsa wants to make. Is it really the camera showing in a natural way the images of people that seem to be in a fun house of horror? Or is it there an intentionality to show it that way?

Austerlitz has been analyzed as a portrayal of horror as a commodity and the relation of man with its history, which is something that Loznitsa explores in his filmography, but it’s also pertinent to point to the depersonalization of the people moving in front of the camera, reducing it all to masses with an undefined face, which seem to condemn they all from the beginning. It’s possible that everything said until now can be reduced to a simple question: Does Loznitsa and the spectators feel morally superior to the people being filmed?

Cinéma du Réel Special Screenings
Director: Sergei Loznitsa
94 min

In spanish here