Robert Jay Lifton: Nazi Doctors

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2 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Presentation can make or break a documentary, especially when you're tackling something along the lines of, say, medical practitioners who worked for the Nazis. If you're lucky enough to get commentary from an expert like Robert Jay Lifton, a renowned psychiatrist who's written extensively on those physicians' ability to compartmentalize while contributing to genocide, you probably aren't going to gratuitously add re-creations of atrocities, wacky animation or rapping hippies (see Rachel). By the same token, should you decide to just turn the camera on a droning intellectual giant for minutes at a time, you run the risk of putting your audience into a deep REM state.

That minimalist option, unfortunately, is exactly what directors Hannes Karnick and Wolfgang Richter opted for, and the result is less a filmed lecture than a deadly dull cine-sedative. No one would dispute that the transformation "from healers to killers" is a moral lapse worth discussing at length, or that Lifton can offer insight on the nature of evil. But the author, respectfully, isn't the most charismatic public speaker to ever grace a screen, and the notion of simply watching him monotonously wax on in front of a bookshelf (with the occasionally inserted shot of lapping waves, just to break things up) doesn't do justice to either the subject or the scholar asked to dissect it.

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