Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Eichmann Show (2015)

It wasn't only Wolf Hall this week on BBC2, there was also the docudrama The Eichmann Show

“You don’t think one represents our dark past and the other our glittering future?” 

This is the question someone poses to documentary filmmaker and the man responsible for the coverage of the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, Leo Hurwitz, after his broadcasts start to lose audiences to Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight.

It's something I hadn't realised before, the nature of competition against the slow, worldwide realisation of the holocaust. It's quite staggering really to consider how the news, world shaping and changing events could be viewed as selective, preferring one over the other. Of course what the person posing the question completely misses is that it is learning the horrors, crimes and errors of our dark past that is ultimately necessary to make our future a glittering one.

This absorbing docudrama from the BBC attempted to show how two men; producer Milton Fruchtman (Martin Freeman, faultless as ever) and blacklisted director Hurwitz (Anthony LaPaglia) brought the 'trial of the century' and, for the first time, the shocking details of the final solution into the living rooms of the world.

It's a classy, well intentioned production but ultimately the sheer horror of Eichmann's crimes means that the prop from which to hang the story upon - the efforts to televise the trial - pales into insignificance. It is of course the real archive clips of the testimonies that grip you and remain with you, not the drama around it. In any case the script rather muffs the endeavors and best intentions of Fruchtman and Hurwitz  by rushing the premise considerably in the opening stages of the film and skipping over the  issues the myriad of issues they faced - the protestations on ethical grounds that a trial should not resort to becoming a 'show trial' which led to the ban on visible cameras in the courtroom, death threats against the lives of Fruchtman and his family - leaving their drive, motivation and character somewhat hollow. Perhaps if they had chose to make this as a mini series, in a similar though naturally more respectful vein to The Hour, rather than a 90 minute docudrama, they may have succeeded in giving each element a chance to breathe and develop.

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