Shoah (1985)



Critic Consensus: Expansive in its beauty as well as its mind-numbing horror, Shoah is a towering -- and utterly singular -- achievement in cinema.

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Movie Info

The creators of the brilliant French documentary Shoah courageously assume that their audience is willing to sit through 570 minutes' worth of interviews and little else. As unpromising as this sounds, rest assured that you will sit and listen. Relentless "inquisitor" Claude Lanzmann probes the memories of several survivors of the Holocaust--as well as several ex-Nazis who helped perpetrate the horrors. Gradually, one becomes aware that what happened in Germany and occupied Europe in the years 1933 through 1945 was not as "unthinkable" as it may seem to modern viewers; the recollections of those directly involved demonstrate all too well that it can happen anywhere at any time. One review of Shoah has carped that "it really could have been a bit shorter." No, it couldn't.
Art House & International , Documentary , Special Interest
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Critic Reviews for Shoah

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (12)

With his 9 1/2-hour Shoah, Claude Lanzmann has accomplished the seemingly impossible: He has brought such beauty to his recounting of the horror of the Holocaust that he has made it accessible and comprehensible.

Full Review… | June 3, 2014
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

By straightforwardly presenting interviews with people who lived through the Holocaust, Lanzmann makes it real again. Even more impressively, he helps us to see how the horror could have happened.

Full Review… | June 3, 2014
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

Shoah is the greatest use of film in motion picture history, taking movies to their highest moral value. For what director/interviewer Lanzmann has done on film is nothing less than revive history, a history so ugly that many would prefer to forget.

Full Review… | June 3, 2014
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

[It] has transcended the cinema to become a primary record of the extermination of European Jews during the Second World War.

Full Review… | March 18, 2012
New Yorker
Top Critic

Why revisit "Shoah'' 25 years after it was first released? Because it matters more a quarter century on, just as it will matter even more in a hundred years, and 200, and - if it and we survive - a thousand.

Full Review… | January 20, 2011
Boston Globe
Top Critic

the film's achievement is to show there are stories worth hearing, and ravaged, resilient faces that reward our scrutiny. The horror, the gallows humor, the shame and the heroism, the lessons of this holocaust -- and all others--have not been exhausted.

Full Review… | January 14, 2011
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Shoah

It's taken me a long time to decide what to say about this film because it left me fittingly speechless. I still feel at a loss for words trying to describe why this film is one of the most important pieces of filmmaking ever created. It's something I believe everyone should see at least once in there lifetime. It's indescribable and simply needs to be experienced to be understood. I give it a five star, but the film sort of transcends my typical rating system. Just seek it out if you ever get the chance. You don't need to watch it in a single sitting, break it up, because it's a monumentally draining film.

Michael Stuhlman
Michael Stuhlman

Although it can be very unsettling, Shoah is made in a way that makes it more than an account of the events, it makes it a living and breathing record. Full Review:

Derek Weishaupt
Derek Weishaupt

An extremely valuable document of the extermination of Jews during WWII. The twenty-five years since it's release add a second layer as a document of the 70s, when it was filmed. I am ambivalent about the length of the film. The length allows us to get to know the interviewees and the locations well and become immersed in the details of lives lived so immersed in horror that it became, for some, routine. On the other hand, the innumerable and sometimes repetitious advancing or retreating shots and the subtitling of the interviews conducted via translator could have been tightened up in editing to cut an hour or more off the running length with little chance of undermining it's impact. I expect that the running time was more effective in the mid-Eighties when the film was released and these stories were a revelation than it is now when most of us have been exposed to many, many details of WWII that were less easily shared in the decades closer to the war.

Michael Harbour
Michael Harbour

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