SFF 2017: Review – Austerlitz

We’ve all been to tourists spots. What they all have in common are tourists. You’re one of them, but you do the best you can in ignoring them so you can appreciate what ever you’re looking at. But what about Nazi concentration camps?

 If you’ve never been to a camp you might picture a stark and desolate place. A stark memorial to the horrors that took place there. What you might get when you visit, however is a whole bunch of tourists. Austerlitz goes to a camp and points its camera at the tourists – Literally.

What you get is as simple as possible and matter of fact look at the tourists. The film makes it seem just like any other tourist trap. People in informal tourist clothing, following a guide, listening to audio guides, backpacks, maps and cameras. There’s nicely manicured landscapes and the sun shining brightly. Looking at just the tourists this could be Disneyland. But it isn’t. And that’s what this film confronts. The tourists look on at various artifacts strangely emotionless. They read the description and then move on to the next spot.

 By matter of fact look, I mean the simplest possible look. It’s a stationary camera on a tripod just pointed somewhere. The sound design is simple, but prominent and so quite important. Any tourist would recognise this situation.

 Austerlitz asks how are we supposed to process this situation when these death camps are treated in the exact same way as an amusement park? Is this appropriate for a death camp? Can you make it appropriate?

The film does make its point rather quickly and while it raises important questions, one wonders if this is an enough of an idea for a feature length documentary film. You watch history’s darkest chapter reduced to a tourist spectacle.

Michael Collins


Sunday 11th of June, 2017

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