Dariusz Jablonski, Poland, 1998

‘I found out that people are capable of adapting themselves to the most extreme conditions,‘ says the Jewish doctor Arnold Mostowicz. He is one of the few survivors of the ghetto in the Polish city of Lodz. The gripping interview excerpts with Mostowicz have not only been shot in black and white, but his face is also kept half hidden by means of shadow effects. Presumably to emphasize that his eyes have seen things that in fact cannot tolerate daylight. Mostowicz‘s story about the degrading conditions in the ghetto are alternated with colour photographs, made by a German bookkeeper. The photographs that were recovered only in 1987 are unique in more than one way. They are not only some of the very first colour pictures ever made, they have registered life in a ghetto in a very exceptional way: through the eyes of a Nazi supporter. In a dramatised voice-over we hear how the photographer — obviously not realising the impact of his pictures on later generations — lodges complaints with the manufacturer about the poor colour quality of the photos. These distressing quotations, also of high-ranking German officers and officials, reappear at various times in the film. They principally illustrate how thoughtlessly people were busy with their daily worries, while the massacre was being performed. The Polish director Dariusz Jablonski visited the houses and locations on the photographs. His recently shot black-and-white images are faded into the colour pictures, creating a stylized and highly alienating effect. Nowhere on the photos or in the footage do we see corpses or skeletons, but the impending atrocities are painfully tangible behind every image and behind every quotation.

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