SALT FOR SVANETIA (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1930)

It is an odd “documentary” that begins with a script, in this case, by Sergei Tretyakov, and indeed Mikhail Kalatozov’s silent Sol Svanetij is largely staged. It also swoons with selfconscious lyricism and is sickeningly cruel and violent.      The film’s ostensible subject is the Svans, whose primitive, isolated Ukrainian existence copes with mountainous, snow- and […]

THE LAST STOP (Wanda Jakubowska, 1947)

From Poland, Wanda Jakubowska’s necessarily Soviet-approved death camp film is based on her own and co-scenarist Gerda Schneider’s imprisonments in Auschwitz. (Jakubowska had been a resistance fighter.) Stark, bleak, bitterly ironic, Ostatni etap (The Last Stage; The Last Stop) details the life of a Nazi concentration camp from the inside out. It calmly observes cruelty […]

DISTANT JOURNEY (Alfréd Radok, 1948)

“Jews and Dogs Forbidden.”      Early Holocaust films were made by death camp survivors: from Poland, Wanda Jakubowska’s Ostatni etap (The Last Stop, 1947); from Czechoslovakia, Alfréd Radok’s Daleká cesta. Combining newsreel, melodrama, expressionism, stark realism, Radok’s film became legendary, in part because the Communists suppressed it for forty years. Films as disparate as Alain Resnais’s […]