Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 P. M.

Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 P. M. (2001)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Military & War, Biography, Social History, Law & Crime, Social Issues  |   Release Date - Oct 12, 2001 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - France  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Todd Kristel

Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 P.M. is an earnest journalistic endeavor, an important historical document, and a weighty account of a true story that merits public attention. It is not, however, an entertaining movie. Claude Lanzmann should be commended for recording Yehuda Lerner's description of his wartime experiences for posterity; furthermore, Lanzmann's decision to maintain a somber, almost meditative tone throughout the film is perfectly understandable given the subject matter. But the movie is rather dull to watch. Since Lanzmann couldn't base the film's visuals on archival footage of the Sobibor camp, he chose to rely on contemporary footage of the area and the train route that Lerner traveled to get there. This footage lacks a sense of immediacy or visceral impact, a problem that is exacerbated by the documentary's slow pace. The movie also relies heavily on interview footage of Lerner, whose impassive demeanor and subdued voice aren't particularly griping, although his comments demonstrate that he has both insight and a sense of humor. Unfortunately, the film's pace is slackened by the inclusion of both Lerner's comments in Hebrew and the translator's comments in French, which seems particularly gratuitous if you're watching the movie with English subtitles. The slowest part of the documentary, however, is its conclusion; it features a lengthy voice-over recitation of the numbers of victims brought at various times to Nazi concentration camps, accompanied only by the same list printed on the screen. This conclusion is indicative of Lanzmann's apparent belief that the gravity of his subject matter justifies occasionally lugubrious filmmaking. How much you appreciate his movie may depend on how much you agree with this attitude.