His­tory most foul

News­reel footage from the lib­er­a­tion of Ger­man con­cen­tra­tion camps lay the hor­rors bare

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

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.

Out­of­favour

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

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