History most foul
Newsreel footage from the liberation of German concentration camps lay the horrors bare
extraordinary document of occupied Europe’s liberation. The film, shot by embedded newsreel cameramen and combat photographers drawn from the ranks of the British, American and Soviet armies, would constitute a “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey”, a powerful tool for teaching, propaganda and for enabling future prosecutions.
Working with Britain’s Ministry of Information, producer Sidney Bernstein assembled a crack team, including editors Peter Tanner and Stewart McAllister, writers Colin Wills and Richard Crossman, and Alfred Hitchcock, who returned from the United States to help craft a feature film from many reels. It’s 1928 and the master illusionist Wei Ling Soo enjoys an international reputation as a disappearer of elephants and debunker of mystics. Following a performance before an adoring crowd in Berlin, the magician, who is actually a Londoner named Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), is joined by childhood chum and fellow conjuror Howard (Simon McBurney).
His old friend has been enlisted by a wealthy American family, the Catledges, to investigate a charming clairvoy-
Sadly, politics would get in the way. Seven decades later, Andre Singer’s first-class documentary uses Hitchcock’s notes and testimony to glimpse the film he might have made, while simultaneously chronicling the story behind the film. Nobody, including the cameramen interviewed here, had realised just how harrowing the images from Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz would be.
As the Allied forces changed focus from retribution to reconciliation, Bernstein’s project fell out of favour, although some of the footage did enable Nuremberg war crimes prosecutors to convict ant named Sophie (Emma Stone). The clan’s youngest son Brice (Hamish Linklater) is smitten with the young mystic. So far, Howard is baffled by her tricks. How do her “vibrations” work?
Stanley happily accepts the challenge and joins the Catledges at their home on the Côte d’Azur, popping in to visit his aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins) along the way. But even the cynical, self-regarding Stanley can’t figure out Sophie’s magical machinations. And far worse, there’s something
Nobody, including the cameramen interviewed here, had realised such just how harrowing the images from Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz would be