For his definitive, nine-hour-plus 1985 Holocaust landmark ‘Shoah’, director Claude Lanzmann will always have a place in the documentary firmament. In the years since, Lanzmann, now 89, has returned to his hours of research and interviews to compose more movies, all of them vibrating with the committed idea that this subject requires lifetimes of study.
His latest, while fascinating, does feel like a detachable side story: it concerns the Schindler-like figure of Benjamin Murmelstein, a rabbi who negotiated with SS lieutenant colonel Adolf Eichmann over matters at the Theresienstadt death camp, saving thousands of Jews while for ever tarring himself as a collaborator. Lanzmann spent a week interviewing Murmelstein in Rome in 1975 and his feisty exchanges with his subject, a brilliant talker, become a moving symbol for the pursuit of slippery truth. Meanwhile, Lanzmann’s more recently shot footage of Yom Kippur services show a way of life robustly continuing.