As Seen Through These Eyes (2008)
Hilary Helstein's documentary As Seen Through These Eyes travels back through the annals of history to witness an unusual, rarely-discussed, and deeply moving phenomenon: that of the Holocaust victims who clung tightly to their own sanity - and, in some cases, saved their own lives - by engaging in the act of raw creation (art, in other words, as a form of psychological and spiritual liberation). Helstein reminds the audience that while international art celebrities such as Pablo Picasso painted widely-seen works that accomplished the same ends (consider, for instance, his Guernica ) many hordes of others, interned in the camps, engaged in the very same remarkable process. Overall, Helstein touches on, and explores, many related subtopics: beginning with a reference to Hitler's own protests against the Austrian artistic establishment that rejected him, she then moves into a discussion of intra-Holocaust art as a method of "bearing witness," and then expostulates on the fact that many Gestapo militia and Holocaust architects actually refrained from exterminating some Jews because of the artistic instincts and works generated by those individuals. Subsequently, Helstein lapses into a discussion of the more ghastly functions that art served in the Holocaust, such as the use of symphonic music to drive the sounds of screams out of ghastly halls, and Nazi artists' attempts to catch the look of insane agony on victims' faces amid satanic medical experiments by Mengele and others. Throughout, the documentarian includes numerous cutaways to the artistic works created during modern history's darkest period, to illustrate and bring life to her various points and themes. … More
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Critic Reviews for As Seen Through These Eyes
Serves as another critical reminder of one of the world's most horrific periods, even if, cinematically, it's an affecting collection of stories and images in search of an actual center.
Though Maya Angelou is enlisted as the solemn narrator of Hilary Helstein's Holocaust documentary, the survivors here need no help expressing their own tragedies.
Unfortunately, Angelou's detached and often superfluous narration lessens the film's impact.
Art executed under the most excruciating conditions deserves a far more searching study than this too short film, which has the structure of a hurried checklist.
Distractingly tortured metaphors are given a distractingly affected narration by Maya Angelou.
Distinguishes itself from many other Holocaust documentaries and offers a new perspective on this timeless tragedy.
Hilary Helstein offers a historically significant documentary reportage of Holocaust survivors who utilized art as their primary coping mechanism inside Hitler's concentration camps.
Helstein leads the narrative with superfluous voiceovers from poet Maya Angelou that emphasize the historicity of the events described and, in some instances, dote on details that seem irrelevant to the core topic.
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