The Last of the Unjust (aka Le Dernier des Injustes) review by Michelle Sommerville - Cinema Paradiso
‘A Jew under Hitler’. This is what The Last of the Unjust (2013) is about. There are many films - documentary and fictionalised - that discuss the horrors of the World War Two Concentration Camps, but this documentary feels different. We watch the images and read the English subtitles, all which display a history that should never have occurred. It is a very emotional documentary, with a subject matter that everyone should see and remember.
The Last of the Unjust takes us back to the days of World War Two Nazi Concentration Camps, specifically Theresienstadt. This location, referred to as the “model ghetto” (the name coined by Adolf Eichmann), was where hordes of Jewish people lived before finally being sent to their deaths in gas chambers. They did not know the fates that awaited them, and instead, the world was shown a facade. Theresienstadt had three presidents (leaders of the Jewish Council). It is approximately twenty minutes into this film that we see Benjamin Murmelstein - the last and only-surviving president. Every day, from 1938 through to the end of the war, Murmelstein was forced to negotiate with Eichmann, an act which saw him viewed by some as a hero, and others as an evil collaborator. This film is a continuation of previous interviews, and shows that there is still so much about this horrific time that we must both know and remember.
It is hard not to become too emotional concerning this topic, and yet both the interviewer (Claude Lanzmann), and the interviewee (Benjamin Murmelstein), did a fantastic job of showing their emotion, while telling the plain and simple facts. They understand how important it is that we never forget the past, lest we repeat it.
Cinematography is important not only in fiction films, but the technical decisions made by Lanzmann aided in bringing you into the world of the film - the real world - and helped in making you feel like you were seeing these sights for yourself.
The filmmaker, Lanzmann, goes against the linear-telling of most documentaries, and chose to jump from one point in current time, to footage from their earlier interviews in 2012 or 1975, to another point in current time, all without proper linking. This can be a bit off-putting and confusing. However, this also allows you to feel the confusion that those in the camps surely would have suffered (though obviously not to the same degree).
The Last of the Unjust has experienced overwhelmingly positive critic and audience responses. Not only are the majority pleased Lanzmann decided to continue discussing this event, but commend him for it, and see how it was not just a rehashing.
This film is perhaps not the most suitable film choice for children, but should definitely be put aside so they can watch it when they are older. It is interesting and educational, but there are a lot of films like this out there, so check them out and judge for yourself.