Three Days in Auschwitz (2015) Review

Three Days in Auschwitz follows film-maker Philippe Mora’s personal journeys to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where eight of his family members were amongst the 1.1 million people killed in the Nazis cruel and systematic killing of the Jews, and other groups.

Philippe describes this short documentary as “cinematic notes for a movie about Auschwitz” as he tells his story, focusing on the three separate days he visited the concentration camps.

One thing I particularly liked about this film was the use of imagery and music. Philippe is a painter, who for many years used his artwork to express the deep personal feelings he has held towards the Nazi regime, and what happened at Auschwitz. His pictures have an almost childlike quality to them, and they’re very raw in their simplicity. Early on, there is a montage of his paintings, which when paired with the haunting soundtrack from Eric Clapton, created a surprisingly moving and very unique feel. The soundtrack was one of the real stand out things for me; it worked really well with the imagery, and is something I could imagine listening to in isolation of this film.

The film is shot in a very amateurish fashion, giving the impression of a home video, which I liked in the sense it really emphasised the personal nature of the story being told, however it doesn’t make for the most satisfying watch. Indeed a lot of this film is so personal, focusing on just the film-maker and his family that it borders on the self-indulgent. It is a very interesting personal story, but I was crying out for more information, more history, and more exploration into the ideas it seems he was desperately trying to convey.

There’s some really interesting themes and motifs which are used throughout but never really explained. There is the focus on art, both his own, and that of his mother, yet it came across as self-promoting rather than explaining how it was something which spanned the generations, and why it was so important to them in expressing their feelings. There is a running theme throughout about trains, which I think was supposed to show a symbolic contrast between the trains at Auschwitz taking people to their deaths, and trains today taking people to work, or on holiday perhaps. However, if it was supposed to mean something, it was never fully explained and seemed a little jarring in places because of this.

Overall, this feels like a cathartic exercise for the film-maker, and whilst in places it is quite engaging to experience this deeply personal journey with him, I was left feeling a bit empty. He is obviously a very knowledgeable man on this subject, and with the personal connections he has to this time period, it should’ve been an emotive and informative watch. However it lacked real direction or purpose, and indeed Philippe repeatedly said how difficult it is to make a film about this subject, which based on this largely disappointing documentary, I would have to agree with.

This review has been written for Screenbound. You can find out more information about this film and the rest of their releases right here.

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