Central European films that dealt with the Holocaust  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In the 1960s, a number of Central European films that dealt with the Holocaust either directly or indirectly had critical successes internationally. In 1966, the Slovak-language Holocaust drama The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze, Czechoslovakia, 1965) by Ján Kadár and Elmer Klos won a special mention at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965 and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film the following year.

While some of these films, such as Shop on the Main Street used a convention film-making style, a significant body of films were bold stylistically and used innovative techniques to dramatise the terror of the period. This included non-linear narratives and narrative ambiguity, as for example in Andrzej Munk's Passenger (Pasażerka, Poland, 1963) and Jan Němec's Diamonds of the Night (Démanty noci, Czechlovakia, 1964); expressionist lighting and staging, as in Zbyněk Brynych's The Fifth Horseman is Fear (...a paty jezdec je Strach, Czechoslovakia, 1964); and grotesquely black humour, as in Juraj Herz's The Cremator (Spalovač mrtvol, Czechoslovakia, 1968).

Literature was an important influence on these films, and almost all of the film examples cited in this section were based on novels or short stories. In Czechoslovakia, five stories by Arnošt Lustig were adapted for the screen in the 1960s, including Němec's Diamonds of the Night.

Although some works, such as Munk's The Passenger, had disturbing and graphic sequences of the camps, generally these films depicted the moral dilemmas that the Holocaust placed ordinary people in and the dehumanising effects it had on society as a whole, rather than the physical tribulations of individuals actually in the camps. As a result, a body of these Holocaust films were interested in those who collaborated in the Holocaust, either by direct action, as for example in The Passenger and András Kovács's Cold Days (Hideg Napok, Hungary, 1966), or through passive inaction, as in The Fifth Horseman is Fear.

The 1970s and 1980s, were less fruitful times for Central European film generally, and Czechoslovak cinema particularly suffered after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion. Nevertheless, interesting works on the Holocaust, and more generally the Jewish experience in Central Europe, were sporadically produced in this period, particularly in Hungary. Holocaust films from this time include Imre Gyöngyössy and Barna Kabay's The Revolt of Job (Jób lázadása, Hungary, 1983), Leszek Wosiewicz's Kornblumenblau (Poland, 1988) and Ravensbrück survivor Juraj Herz's Night Caught Up With Me (Zastihla mě noc, Czechoslovakia, 1986), whose shower scene is thought to be the basis of Spielberg's similar sequence in Schindler's List.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Central European films that dealt with the Holocaust" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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