Friday, January 21, 2005

Auschwitz: The Movie

There are a lot of movies based on the atrocities of Nazi Germany during WWII — Schindler’s List, The Pianist, Hart’s War, Saving Private Ryan, The Tin Drum, and the like. However, I had an idea for a movie whose time it may still yet be too soon. How about a movie directly about the horrors of the Auschwitz Prison Camp? We are an increasingly bloodthirsty society; we’re constantly looking for new ideas to disgust, shock, and horrify ourselves. When we see the fictional product of one’s twisted imagination in a movie like Saw or Se7en, or a realistic portrayal of historically documented human cruelty, such as the scene in The Pianist when the Nazis throw a crippled old man over a balcony to his death because he couldn’t rise from his wheelchair to stand and acknowledge them, we are so awestricken by the depravity of the depicted action that we get that hollow pain in the bottom of our hearts, yet we are so mesmerized by the barbarity of the action that we can’t look away. So what we need is a cinematic representation of an abomination so ghastly that we’d never be able to disregard the feelings we’d be left with. It would be even more horrific if it were based on historically documented events that transpired someplace that actually existed. I believe that, in order to create such a film, as well as create a timely reminder for the unbelievers of what, exactly, the Jewish people had to suffer through during the Holocaust, Auschwitz would be the perfect setting. Here are three ways that I believe a successful movie like this could be plotted, (well, actually two ways; the third way is just thrown in as a fun, less realistic side note):

1) A less personal documentation of what would generally transpire at the prison camp on a regular basis. It could focus on any particular prisoner and his struggles with the cruelty and death that would occur daily at the camp, but give the viewer a more general outline abuse at the death camp.

2) This is my choice: A tighter focus on the infamous
Dr. Josef Mengele, one of the most sadistic and grotesque murderers in all of human history. The movie would still have the opportunity to visually document and present many of the human horrors that went on in the background, but connecting the audience to the mind of a man so monstrous and so detached from the human suffering he personally inflicted on the prisoners would leave the audience with a much deeper mental image. Using Dr. Mengele as the subject of the film more so than the prison itself would allow the filmmaker to go into much more detail of the true evilness of his experiments. In fact, the movie could be called either “Mengele,” or “The Angel of Death,” which was his actual nickname.

3) Another possibility to tie into the subject, but not really meant to actually document the events at the prison is to set up an actual ghost story horror movie around the subject of Auschwitz. Since we know that ghosts often settle in the place where they died, and that horrific, sudden, or traumatic deaths can generate spirits of people who don’t realize they’re dead, it would make sense that the land of the former prison would be haunted. A team of German historians or researchers could go into the prison to poke around for whatever reason, and find that there are thousands of ghosts of Holocaust victims whose minds became twisted by the torture they had to endure. They mistake the German researchers for their Nazi torturers and set out exacting their vengeance on the group of innocent, modern-day Germans. Not only would this make a great setting for psychological horror, but a writer or director could get really creative when designing how the ghosts of the tortured prisoners would look and act, considering what all had happened to them during the immediately preceding their deaths.

Any one of these ideas would make one of the most disturbing horror movies and/or historical documentaries ever created to date, if done properly. Hell, all three could be produced for all I care: a movie about Auschwitz itself, one about Dr. Mengele himself, and the campy horror movie. Of course, to do it right, Hollywood can’t take the pussy way out and make it a Pearl Harbor-esque love story, or give it cheesy special effects like the modern remake of The Haunting. To have the desired effect, it would have to be made as realistic as possible without using actual video footage and having a voice-over read by Walter Cronkite, but keep it dripping with the human drama that would really make the audience connect with the pain being inflicted on the prisoners and the detachment of Dr. Mengele. I say make it at least as realistic a portrayal of the Holocaust as Saving Private Ryan did of World War II — I’m talking about Faces of Death style inhumanity and depravity — which would, of course, earn it an NC-17 rating.

Of course, there are Holocaust survivors still alive today who would probably not appreciate living through the experience again on the screen, especially because, no matter how realistic one would attempt to make it, it probably still wouldn’t do justice to the gruesomeness of the actual events, so maybe I’m a little ahead of my time. I do know, though, that Hollywood is in dire need of making another truly disturbing movie these days, and given that there’s a growing movement of ignorant, history-flunking Skinheads out there who are trying to convince the world that the Holocaust either didn’t happen or wasn’t really all that bad, the fickle public needs a glaring reminder of what can happen when true monsters are given to lead.

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