Killing Kasztner (2009)
To an even greater degree than Oskar Schindler, Dr. Israel Kasztner played a key role in saving the lives of well over 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust (1,600 in Kasztner's case; 1,200 in Schindler's), but a fascinating and deeply sad irony lay buried in the differences between the men's stories: Schindler was a Nazi party member who manipulated the Gestapo in such a way that it enabled him to save the said individuals, and he died a veritable hero; Kasztner was a Jew who bargained with Adolf Eichmann for the salvation of the 1,600 (whom he shuttled off to Switzerland on a train), and was not ultimately laurelled as a hero, but branded a traitor by his own people. This occurred largely because the notion of bargaining with the Nazis struck many as morally unacceptable (indeed, a greater moral infraction, in the eyes of some, than simple party membership). Kasztner's tale thus speaks volumes about the complex loyalties, conflicting allegiances, and deep-seated confusion at the heart of World War II, and those are the gray areas explored by director Gaylen Ross in this penetrative documentary account of Kasztner's life. The film ultimately poses key questions about the extent to which collaboration with the enemy is morally acceptable in a time of war; it reveals the extent to which Kasztner touched innumerable lives, and features deeply moving interviews with Kasztner's family (who are still attempting to restore his legacy), even as it also features conversations with Kasztner's political opponents and detractors. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Killing Kasztner
Did he truly sell his soul, or was he just, as a family member says in the film, the wrong kind of hero? The film fascinates even as the man himself remains elusive.
There are deeply complex issues afoot here -- most especially the question of how a country and a people decides who will be its heroes -- and this amateurish film, with its tabloid-TV zooms and hokey visual metaphors, simply isn't up to such complexity.
Director Gaylen Ross assembles a fascinating look at this complex man and the still-smoldering argument about his legacy.
Gaylen Ross's excellent documentary explores how a forgotten hero of the Holocaust became a political target in Israel.
The 2008 documentary "Killing Kasztner: The Jew Who Dealt with Nazis" is more the latter, and it arguably makes one wonder if there is such a thing as Holocaust minutiae.
The very things that make Killing Kasztner maddening -- herky-jerky storytelling, heavy-handedness, doomy music, unearned moral certitude -- keep it moving right along.
What emerges is less than an in-depth portrait of a man -- we learn little about him, aside from his intelligence, his charisma and his itch to be near power -- than a study of nationhood, history and the psychology of heroism.
Tells a fascinating story in an unwieldy way...a pity the structural flaws undermine its impact.
As an examination of what happens when events on the ground collide with national myth and a look at how disinclined complex reality is to fit into tidy boxes, it can't be beat.
A well-balanced and provocative documentary that's equally engaging, poignant and illuminating.
Absorbing untangling of how history judges choices made in extreme circumstances. Scrapes the scab off raw ethical, emotional and political perceptions of WWII heroism.
The film leaves you with a sense that Kastner's name is a casualty of rhetorical crossfire.
Notable for, if nothing else, introducing a Jewish character endowed with much of the same historical controversy as his German counterparts.
Ross is very good at teasing out the politics behind Kasztner's shifting fortunes, not to mention his murky ambitions. But closure is the last thing that's needed here.
Biased as journalism but engrossing as a movie, this documentary about a controversial Holocaust figure should be taken with a grain of kosher salt.
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