Eye For Film >> Movies >> I Have Never Forgotten You - The Life And Legacy Of Simon Wiesenthal (2007) Film Review
I Have Never Forgotten You - The Life And Legacy Of Simon Wiesenthal
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
In 1945 Simon Wiesenthal was one of hundreds of thousands of people to be liberated from the Nazi concentration camps. So weak that he could scarcely stand, he had lost everyone he knew in the world and could see no reason to live. Then, as fate would have it, he stumbled across a group of Americans who were trying to gather the necessary evidence to try and convict SS officers in their custody. The Americans were astonished that this desperately fragile man should be so eager to help them, but they were glad of his assistance.
Wiesenthal made a promise to those who had died that he would never forget them, and from that day forward he spent his whole life hunting down former Nazi commanders to bring them to trial. It was an obsession which won him famous friends and made him bitter enemies, which exhausted him and his friends and family, and which commanded the attention of the world. Now, two years after his death, this documentary attempts to shed light on his experiences.
Few documentaries can ever have been put together with the same level of meticulous care as this one, clearly the product of exhaustive research. Every one of Wiesenthal's investigations, plus scenes detailing his background and significant experiences in his personal life, are supported by documents. An impressive amount of pre-war film footage has been unearthed, along with numerous photographs and later interviews with Wiesenthal about his work.
It's a difficult subject to present because of the repetitive nature of many of the investigations, and it comes across as slower and rather longer than it needs to be, diminishing the sense we ought to get of this man's tremendous energy, but largely that's because it's trying so hard. Wiesenthal's own scenes are almost always engaging, veering between the distressingly painful and the uproariously funny. Whilst this may not seem like a subject for laughter, Wiesenthal was always full of humour, and this story makes it clear how that provided him with a source of strength.
This film seems to be aimed primarily at an American audience, and some of the mispronunciations of names in it are really grating, especially coming from narrator Nicole Kidman, who surely knows better. Likewise, the repetitive and heavily sentimental soundtrack tries one's patience. It is unfortunate, but these little details are important, contributing as they do to making it seem just a little too much like a school history programme rather than the sort of film people would eagerly go to see on the big screen.
This is a shame, as it's a film which deserves to be seen, a film with many important things to say. Some of the topics it covers - such as Wiesenthal's concern for the Romany people in concentration camps - are rarely examined elsewhere. Few of those who do go to see this will leave without learning something new. "We wanted to be able to help future generations not only appreciate his contributions to the cause of justice for all people who have been victims of genocide, but inspire others to follow his example," says director Richard Trank, and this film certainly has the potential to do that.Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2007
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