Claude Lanzmann's agonizing epic Shoah (1985) remains, in critic Roger Ebert's phrase, "one of the noblest films ever made" and, beyond all doubt, one of the greatest non-fiction works committed to celluloid. It runs almost nine and a half hours but never betrays its great length because (Ebert again) this "howl of pain and anger in the face of genocide" constantly fascinates and appalls us in equal measure. The most patient interrogator imaginable, Lanzmann interviews survivors of the Holocaust (already a quickly diminishing group by 1985), bystanders to the atrocities and, most chilling of all, some of the remaining Nazi killers -- concentration-camp guards, former soldiers, others. The filmmaker is persistent, in places even cruelly so, because morality demands it, but Lanzmann's questions are quiet, unperturbed and, in some cases, seemingly slight. In the end, the weight of the testimony he accumulates bears powerful witness to the greatest horror of the twentieth century. Shoah (the Hebrew word for chaos, or annihilation) was filmed at the sites, now quiet and pastoral, where millions of murders were committed. Beneath these pastures and green forests, we come to learn, mass graves spread for miles. In the film's long silences, we are left to contemplate the tides of history and the commonplaces of evil.
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In recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Shoah will screen at the Starz FilmCenter in two segments. The first half is scheduled for Sunday, April 18, at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., the second for Sunday, April 25, at 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Starz is in the Tivoli building on the Auraria campus; for information, call 303-820-3456 or go to www.denverfilm.org.