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The behind-the-scenes true life story of a groundbreaking producer, Milton Fruchtman, and blacklisted TV director Leo Hurwitz who, overcoming enormous obstacles, set out to capture the testimony of one of the war's most notorious Nazis, Adolf Eichmann, who is accused of executing the 'final solution' and organising the murder of 6 million Jews. This is the extraordinary story of how the trial came to be televised and the team that made it happen.

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The Eichmann Show movie full length review - recommended adult viewing

Apart from the flagrantly bad acting of Martin Freeman, whom I have never seen before and hope never to see again, this is an enormously impressive film which tackles a difficult subject well.

Excellently done was the blending of the real 1961 trial footage with modern reconstruction, something that frequently goes awry. Here the back-&-forth switching seems odd at first but grows on the viewer, involving us even more closely in the events on screen. Also very clever was the use of English voice-over to all the trial footage, an authentic-sounding simultaneous interpreter, flubs and all, echoing over earphones. Good idea! One did wish, however, that the original languages were occasionally allowed to leak through in voice-over pauses, to give more authenticity to the speakers: atrocity witnesses, prosecutors, judges and also the defendant himself. (In this film it is hard to tell that the trial was conducted almost entirely in German, which is a fact worth knowing; with some witnesses speaking in French, a language utterly unsuited to such descriptions and all the more harrowing for that reason.) Most eyes should be turned away from the camp archive footage, but thankfully there is not too much of it and one is always forewarned. The same cannot be said about watching the defendant himself, which is upsetting. But the Eichmann footage used here was also a choice by the film-makers, to render him less than the "human" Hurwitz starts out by assuming he is.

The twisted, vicious face we see continually on display was not, however, the only face available. I had the privilege many years ago of seeing a documentary of the trial, at an art cinema in Tokyo, with English subs. It was very long and composed entirely of trial footage deftly edited: no narration, no music, no inter-titles. (I have tried in vain to locate it on this site; does anyone know the film I mean? I saw it in 97? 98? but it may have been made earlier,in Canada? US? UK?) What I remember about Eichmann was his many faces in the dock. Often a very nervous, ratty man with huge stacks of paper and notepads, which he shuffled through constantly, taking notes and looking for all the world like a perfectly sane accountant on trial for fiddling the books. This aspect was not shown to us in "The Eichmann Show", which is a pity. Not for any kind of sympathy, God knows, but to scare the living daylights out of us by what Arendt called the "banality of evil." In many ways this banal accountant type was more horrible than the leering, sneering, unchanging Satanic face we constantly see in this film... because it did not seem to occur to the accountant that he had done anything seriously wrong. But the film-makers here were wedded to a certain view, and did not want to complicate it.

One understands that such an overwhelming event needs simplifying for the movie-going masses, and this film has done a fine job overall. But as I watched it myself, I had the longer documentary in mind to help me come to grips with it. If "help" is the right word.