14 APRIL 1961, Page 20

Ci nema

Rewards of Atrocity

By ISABEL QUIGLY Mein Kampf. (Continen- tale.) -- Operation Eichmann, (General release from Mon- day.) Araocii is now so openly on the best-seller market that one hesitates to welcome yet another film that makes use of it. Even when it is treated with the least sensational motives it gets exploited. There was Reshais's film Night and Fog, that was miles from exploiting the horrors: I remem- ber groups of youths gawping and giggling, out- side a cinema where it was showing, at the hideous and ageless-looking concentration camp inmates in their naked rows. Or, openly playing on this sort of prurient curiosity, there was the poster not long ago of a woman leering across the barbed wire and saying with the sexiest glint in her eyes: 'I was Eichmann's victim.'

Mein Kampf (director: Erwin Leiser; 'X' certificate), made in Sweden by a German who has lived there since 1938, and using documen- tary material taken by the Americans, the Russians, the Poles, the French, ourselves and, most importantly, the Germans, is not primarily a horror film and not made, I would say, for horrific and prurient reasons. The most grue- some pictures available were not used because, Mr. Leiser says, few people 'can look at un- endurable pictures.' The film is shown with a very quiet, very moderate and unexcited text; with scarcely a moral comment. Just at the end, when we see all the prisoners at Nuremberg pleading not guilty, it asks whether Hitler. and no one else besides, was responsible for the whole catastrophe. (Leni Riefenstahl, by the way, has managed to get a share in the profits on the grounds that parts of her Triumph of the Will were used in this film.) The most terrible parts of the filmL-because they have not been generally seen before, and because they are the intimate pictures of individual people dying in what was once their home—are the reels taken for Nazi propaganda purposes in the Warsaw ghetto. Not surprisingly, the propagandists realised they had fumbled, and after a few private showings when obviously they aroused pity, not whatever they were meant to arouse, it was decided not to show them in public. But how could even a Nazi cameraman think that shots of children in this state could make good propaganda? Children of two and three at every stage of starvation, and, worst of the lot, a little boy with stick-legs in enormous boots dancing in the street with deathly hops and little grins and looks at the passers-by, hoping for food. Throughout Mein Kampf it is the child- ren that have the most terrible and eloquent effect: in every scene, however atrocious the situation, are children of all sizes, from babies upwards; and, at the very end, the grisliest piece of good fortune—a troop of children, not starved at all, and saved when the Allies came in : all of them twins, kept for experiments. Or, again, there are the boys at the end of the film, before Germany collapsed: the last pictures of Hitler show him chatting to a minute child in the familiar German helmet, not a day over twblve by the look of it. And he pats faces affectionately, and gives ears playful tweaks, 'human' to the last.

The early parts of the film. about Hitler's rise to power. necessarily telescoped and simplified as they are, make one's hair crawl--for so many things. but for the cult of personality above all. How suspect personal adulation now seems, the hysterical admiration of crowds. well-organised processions. massive cheers, overwhelming songs; and how loathsome, since this last manifestation of it, anything military! When I was a child marching soldiers were still considered thrilling, martial musk rousing, uniforms glamorous Now. so utterly inoculated are we against such things that the sight of any sort of military formatiOn arouses, surely in everyone, an emotional disgust; as for hands and whipping-up songs me reacts against them, and there seems no virtue now in the perfect alignment of march- ing feet. Marching feet. goose-stepping feet. feet shuffling along the roads to slavery, the child's feet on the ghetto pavement—they all end in the mountain of shoes at the end. some of the nine million pairs of those who died in the camps. We have seen these mountains of shoes, of spectacle frames, false teeth and hair before; but one thing the film told me J didn't know: very quietly, in the monotonous official tone of a chemist describing a new medicine, it tells us the virtues of the gas Cyclon B. I had always thought its effect was at least almost instantan- eous. Not at all; you allowed twenty minutes.

Operation Eichmann (director : R. G Spring- steen, 'X. certificate) is a contused. inept and ridiculous etlort to reconstruct the story of the mans career and capture, there is something pretty offensive in showing documentary con- centration camp scenes and even the reconstruc- tion of a gas chamber in action in a film which at other times has an audience in derisive giggles. Werner Klemperer, son of the conductor, plays Eichmann