A Film Unfinished - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

A Film Unfinished Reviews

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April 4, 2012
I need to work up the courage to watch this.
April 1, 2012
This is so heartbreaking to watch. The presentation of this story was unique and captivating, but the images are just horrible.
March 24, 2012
Impactante documental sobre material filmico de la propaganda nazi en el ghetto de Varsovia. Experiencia estrujante, pero necesaria para saber la verdad y divulgarla, como resumió mi guía en estos temas, O.T.
March 12, 2012
Nauseating, repulsive, disgustingthe list of negative adjectives one could use to describe this film is a lengthy one. It has nothing to do with the superb efforts of the producer or director of the documentary, but rather the Nazi-generated film of the Warsaw Ghetto. The makers of "A Film Unfinished" do a splendid job of blending interviews with ghetto survivors years later, testimony of one of the Nazi cinematographers, and Adam Czerniaków, head of the Judenrat in the ghetto.
Super Reviewer
February 19, 2012
There have been many incomplete films relegated to the dutsbins of oblivion. What separates the subject of "A Film Unfinished" is not its simple title of "The Ghetto" but its subject matter, that of the Warsaw Ghetto in May 1942, shortly before its liquidation, containing about an hour's worth of footage(some shot in color) commissioned by the Nazis that was forgotten for decades in East German archives.

For me watching the footage is like watching ghosts while providing insight into the horrible conditions inside the ghetto. It is very emotional for survivors to watch it, looking for people they once knew amongst the footage, some of it staged to give the appearance of affluence. As one survivor puts it, they did not have flowers and if they did, they would have eaten them.

So what was the purpose of the footage shot? We know it was propaganda, of course, but without any narration or soundtrack, it is hard to know for sure what the point was since that could change the meaning of what we see, even with the testimony of one of the cameramen.(A neat little trick I learned from Screen Studies 101.) And it is also hard to say what footage was intended for a completed film.(Like a lot of filmmakers, the Nazis used multiple takes.) Some survivors thought the film was made to give a negative portrait of the ghetto while I think the Nazis were intending to give the indication of a thriving and vibrant community to cover up any claims of the awful deed they were about to commit since they were not exactly open about the slaughters they committed.
January 24, 2012
A powerful and haunting look into life in the Nazi-era Warsaw ghetto. This movie, full of starving Jews dying in the streets or being beaten and humiliated by Nazi guards, is hard to watch. It's especially hard to watch considering that all of the archival footage comes from the outtakes of an unreleased Nazi propaganda film which tried to put a positive spin on things.
December 11, 2011
Excellent documentary about Nazi documentation of the Warsaw Ghetto. Watch it! Yes, I have watched two films about WWII in the last 24 hours.
December 11, 2011
Wow. Evoked some strong emotions, especially the parts that showed all the people piled up in mass graves, or on the streets...oh how skinny they were.... a must for any history buff or person wanting to learn more about this time- it is actual footage of the Warsaw Ghetto.
½ December 9, 2011
Behind the scenes of an unfinished Nazi Propaganda film about the Warsaw Ghetto. Fascinating. Unsettling. Sometimes disturbing (as it should be).
November 18, 2011
All around the world there lay pieces of films that have been left unfinished. I am sure of it, even if I have no evidence to support my theory. But I also am confident that none of those films are as fascinating as the film titled "The Ghetto", which lay in a concrete vault in the middle of the woods until it was finally discovered and viewed. However, those other films also do not have writer/director Yael Hersonski's talents to supplement the material in the form of the documentary A Film Unfinished.

During Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany and the surrounding lands, the propaganda department of the Third Reich was extremely active and it took full advantage of the allure of the motion picture to the people of Germany. Propaganda films released by Nazi Germany are notorious for their extreme views, as well as their careful construction. In Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglourious Basterds, he even pays tribute to the likes of Leni Riefanstahl's Triumph of the Will with a film within a film, the fictitious "Nation's Pride". So when a partial film was unearthed depicting everyday life in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, Poland, it spikes curiosity as to why the film was never completed. But it also raises such questions as how documentary films are constructed and how much truth actually exists.

In A Film Unfinished, director Hersonski examines the film that was found and invites survivors of the Warsaw ghetto to view the film and reflect on what they see and what they remember. This tactic may be seen by some as being manipulative, but when you are talking about ghettoes and the Holocaust, who better to talk to than people with first-hand experience? Hersonski also investigates the work of one of the cameramen, Willy Wist, through a transcript of a war crime trial in which he testified.

The beginning of the film is a bit sluggish and uninteresting as the film was just digging in, but once the narration faded to the great interviews and footage of this film, it became much more engaging. I cannot help but think that at the end of the day I enjoyed this film as much as I did based simply on the topic of the film. Anything to do with the Third Reich and the Holocaust is immensely fascinating to me because it is the most recent event in human history that I cannot fathom actually being allowed to happen to the extent at which it did. And I am not denying it at all as some chemically unbalanced theorists might suggest. On the contrary I firmly believe it happened and that is what is so unbelievable.

Hersonski adds a great touch in what is her first feature film, presenting the material in the most interesting way possible. It made me think about the film industry in Nazi Germany and the power of film to be a persuasive argument as the filmmakers fabricated scenes to say what they wanted communicated instead of capturing the truth of the situation. It is a scary thing to think about, but it also made me think of contemporary documentary films and how much these films also do this. Not knowing the history, which was well researched by Hersonski here when she cited journals and trial transcripts as well as first-hand accounts, it is impossible to decipher the truth from lies. Even in this film, the viewer must trust the filmmaker is telling the truth. A Film Unfinished may not be the best or most important documentary on the Third Reich and all things related, but it does tell a good story with some real people and real footage of an era of Human history that many would like to forget, but none of us can ever escape.
½ October 12, 2011
¿Para qu (C) hacer cine si no es para que los demás lo vean? Alrededor de esta incógnita gira la premisa de este nuevo documental sobre el Holocausto, un retrato sórdido sobre el uso y abuso de la imagen en movimiento.
September 7, 2011
"A Film Unfinished" is a top-notch documentary about the Warsaw Ghetto, or more exactly, a Jewish attempt to understand how the Nazis were trying to portray it by inspecting the reels of an unfinished film the Nazis shot over a few weeks before they started sending the surviving Jews to the death camp of Treblinka.

Filmmaker Yael Hersonski successfully tries not to make the cryptic reels mean more than they say. What the Nazis' motivations were remains partly obscure, though by examining various takes of the same staged scene, by listening to the reactions of modern ghetto survivors to the film, and by collating the images with the diaries of the head of the Warsaw Jewish council and the dramatised post-war interviews of one of the German cameramen, one can get an inkling of what was going on.

Viewers expecting an exhaustive look at the Warsaw Ghetto might be disappointed, though. This is just a slice of life (and death), with no thorough presentation of the historical context: how the ghetto exactly came to be, what its economics was, etc. The comments by survivors are also very sparse. I was surprised, for instance, to see Jews go to a ritual bath with dirty feet. Is it something they would normally do? I suspect not. And isn't ritual bathing individual? Weren't the women supposed to bathe their whole body? And weren't they, therefore, deliberately undermining the documentary and fooling the cameramen with this mockery of Jewish ritual? One of the survivors also explains that Jews are normally not buried in coffins, but does not say what they are buried in. I wonder whether the documentary itself was not leaving all these questions unanswered in order to cultivate the indeterminacy and remain itself "A Film Unfinished".

The documentary works extremely well as a brutal portrait of the Nazi persecution of the Jews (with very painful images of starving children and a mass burial), a reflection on the use of film in propaganda, and a bold attempt to understand the Nazi mind. I highly recommend it.
August 23, 2011
Did what it could with the given footage.
½ August 18, 2011
About the unfinished propaganda film commissioned by the Nazis this documentary goes through interesting history like a boring lecture.
July 9, 2011
What amazes me about A Film Unfinished is that it is more of an artifact than a standard documentary. It deals with actual recovered footage of the Warsaw ghetto and translates what is happening before our eyes thanks to recovered interview transcripts and journal entries from decades past. This movie chilled me to the bone. Many filmmakers have reenacted the terror of the Holocaust, but it does not get any more real and accurate than this.
July 7, 2011
Haunting documentary reconstructing a never before released Nazi propaganda film about the Warshaw ghetto.
½ July 6, 2011
Fascinating, simply fascinating. A perfect examination of the role of film and propaganda by the Nazi regime. What is even more interesting is how, until recently, some of this footage which history has considered to be authentic is revealed to have been staged and filmed in order to become part of the Nazi propaganda machine.
July 6, 2011
Did you know the Nazis made propaganda films?
July 3, 2011
What is advertised as a shocking tail of a propaganda film is more or less a telling of the day to day life at the Warsaw Ghetto. I just wish the filmmakers understood how golden the stories and relationships of the survivors to the ghetto were. At times it feels as though the documentary is trying to be more of a conspiracy piece, placing twists and turns that are way to knowledgeable to the viewer to gain the gasps that they are working for.
June 30, 2011
This film is an important "document" about an infamous/famous piece of Nazi propaganda - and the evidence of staging that was supported by the discovering of a missing reel of outtakes recently. Shot in the Warsaw Ghetto in May of 1942, it is a clear & horrifying reminder of what happens when a society chooses to dehumanize a group of people... and then cover it over with a whitewash of images & rhetoric.

That said, I had great difficulty connecting with the film - possibly because the previews I had seen over-promised what the newly discovered footage would reveal. It is horrible beyond belief - forcing naked Jews to engage in ritual baths for the camera or for other Jews to ignore those begging for food... and the cruel sight of emaciated bodies being dumped into a mass grave. But thanks to document evidence from inside the Ghetto, we've known for a long time about the history behind the Nazi film. The footage simply confirms this.

The film is primarily a narrated/scored showing of the entire propaganda film (the original footage does not have a soundtrack) with some artsy shots of the projection of the film & the storage place of the film and the hiding place of the Ghetto history. The most emotionally affecting moments are watching survivors of the Ghetto watching the film...

I think this is important information, but I'm not sure it is compelling filmmaking... which has made me really struggle about how to rate it.
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