Some Who Lived is among the films included in Broken Silence, the Holocaust anthology produced by James Moll in association with the Shoah Foundation, which he co-founded. Directed by Argentina’s Luis Puenzo (La historia oficial, 1985), it is one of the most moving and gripping films about the Holocaust that I’ve seen. Other films in the anthology are by Russia’s Pavel Chukhraj, Czech Republic’s Vojtěch Jasný, Poland’s Marcel Łoziński and Hungary’s János Szász.
These are testimonies, but “talking heads” better describes officials and experts than people who share from experience and memory, in this case, Holocaust survivors, whose eyes and hands also “talk.” Puenzo has orchestrated a rich, taut fabric consisting of both these unusually (and sometimes gruesomely) detailed testimonies in blank color and archival footage in stark, gloomy, powerful black and white. The present rents ubiquitous space in the past. You will recall that a song figures prominently in La historia oficial. Here, one of the interviewed souls is haunted by a song and immediately we ourselves hear it—or something we take for being it—on the soundtrack.
We see Mengele, and hear about well-fed children upon whom he experimented—until the experiments were finished and the children were exterminated: horrors inside the horror.
The film proceeds chronologically, by year, beginning in 1939. Everything becomes a metaphor for the Holocaust: the man who is shot for reaching to reassure his niece in a transport train; the liquidation of a ghetto.
Puenzo addresses anti-Semitism and potential Jewish scapegoating in Argentina. Ironically, both Holocaust survivors and former Nazi officials fled to Argentina. A survivor wonders whether a certain Nazi big-wig might have brushed by her on the street without her knowing it. Right then we see her arm and the number tattooed on it.
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