Movies that are based on actual events are a dime a dozen here in the United States. Hollywood’s “Big Six” studios have made a habit of making them into their own genre ever since the golden age of cinema. The problem is that the movies that have and continue to fill out that genre are largely forgettable since they are more spectacle than actual history. This has made the genre and its movies anything but credible. Thankfully in 2016, the foreign historical drama The Interrogation came along and shook things up in that genre. Directed by Israeli director Erez Pery and released in Israel through a partnership between various Israeli firms, the 85-minute presentation was re-issued this summer on DVD through Corinth Films. Its release this year marked the fourth time it has been released to DVD since its theatrical release, having most recently been released on DVD in 2017 through Film Movement. The movie, in its presentation here, succeeds in large part because nothing was added or removed in terms of bonus content. So keeping that in mind, the most important of the movie’s aspects is its story and how it is presented. This element will be discussed shortly. The work of the movie’s two lead actors also plays into the presentation and will be discussed a little later. The cinematography puts the finishing touch to the whole, showing once more how much this simple story has to offer audiences. It will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of The Interrogation. All things considered, they make this movie a near perfect example of how to properly make a movie that is based on actual events.
Corinth Films’ recent DVD re-issue of the Israeli independent movie The Interrogation is among the most unique of this year’s field of new DVD/BD re-issues. While its release this summer marks at least the fourth time that it has been re-issued since its theatrical debut in 2016, there are still plenty of audiences who have yet to see the movie. To that end, the re-issue proves just as welcome as its predecessors. The movie proves worth seeing in large part through its story. The story in question follows the interrogation of Nazi SS officer and Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoss by Polish investigation judge Albert. Hiss is played here by Romanus Fuhrmann while Albert (no last name is given to Albert) is portrayed by Maciej Marczewski. The interrogation takes place in an interview room at the prison where Hoss was taken following his arrest in 1946 by British troops in Germany. Hoss recounts through the story, how he came to join the Nazi military regime and eventually become the longest serving Commandant at the infamous Auschwitz death camp. Throughout each interview that Albert holds with Hoss, Hoss remains so cold, so straight forward even as he attempts to paint himself as a victim, someone afraid to stand up to his own Nazi superiors. It is difficult to believe that Hoss was really a victim in any of what he oversaw despite his straight forward responses, and Albert does not buy into Hoss’ lamentations, either, as he shows more than once. This will be addressed later in the discussion on the acting. What is really interesting here is that Pery and co-writer Sari Azoulay Turgeman could have easily gone the typical historical drama route during these sessions and used flashbacks within the story, presenting re-enactments of the atrocities over which Hoss saw. Thankfully they did not go that route. Nor did they incorporate any grand soliloquies or over the top dialogue between Albert and Hoss. It actually enhances the story because it is that straight forward and simple. What’s more, there is no soundtrack at any point. Audiences only hear the sound of the two men talking and the whir of the tape recorder as it captures Hoss’ confession. There are also natural sounds as Hoss recalls his life before becoming part of the Nazi death machine, such as horses and birds as footage of calm, quiet countryside is shown. It all really makes everything seem so cold, almost as if to reflect the cold, callous nature of Hoss and what he did during his time at Auschwitz. It all makes the story itself so powerful and that much more engaging and entertaining. To that end, the story and its presentation is something from which so many American studio executives and filmmakers should and could learn. The story and its presentation are just part of what makes The Interrogation so gripping. The workd put in by Marczewski and Fuhrmann is also of note here.
As already pointed out, Marczewski and Fuhrmann are the main actors in The Interrogation. Yes, there are a few extras in the form of a few Russian guards at the prison where Hoss is held, and a woman (It is unknown if the woman is Albert’s wife or another woman), and two other men held at the prison. Their roles are secondary, but add their own importance as to how Albert handles the emotional and mental strain of dealing with Hoss. Marczewski, in his declarations that he does not belief Hoss’ attempts to make himself a victim, is so professional. He easily could have chewed the scenery so to speak, but instead the control that he gives Albert as Albert goes toe to toe with Hoss is so powerful in itself. In the same vein, seeing how Albert handles the strain of it all, even reaching a shocking breaking point in the story’s end, is just as powerful. It makes him even more relatable for audiences. That is because of the subtle way in which Hoss’ confessions impact him. We are all impacted mentally and emotionally by various situations, and we let those impacts build until they reach a boiling point. That is exactly what happens with Albert here.
Focusing on Fuhrmann, his cold, straight forward demeanor is just as powerful in its own way. The way in which Fuhrmann emotes throughout evokes so much power, especially as he tells Albert about his past. There seems to be no sense of remorse in any of Hoss’ discussion on that point. Albert even makes note of it, as already discussed. It leaves one really not believing that Hoss was that unwilling of a participant in what happened at Auschwitz. That makes the performance all the richer on the part of Fuhrmann. When Fuhrmann and Marczewski’s performances are considered together, their collective makes for even more reason for audiences to watch this movie. When their work is considered along with the very story featured in this movie, that reason to watch increases even more. Keeping all of that in mind, it is only a part of what makes the movie worth viewing. The movie’s cinematography rounds out the movie’s most important elements.
The cinematography presented in The Interrogation is important in that it is just as simple as everything else. The various angles and lighting used in the prison sets (Hoss’ cell and the interview room) are prime examples of the cinematography’s impact. The cold white-painted cindeblock of the interview room is its own echo of the coldness from Hoss. One can even argue that the industrial sense that it enhances the sense of hopelessness that perhaps Hoss has in knowing what lies ahead. The way that the lighting was used here gives the noted scenes such a grim feeling that viewers will fully experience.
The lighting that is used as Hoss sits in his cell, writing his memoir is an important part of the cinematography because it serves to help translate Hoss’ own darkness as he awaits his fate, knowing he has no chance of escaping what is coming. That lighting, as he looks outside his cell does much the same. By contrast, those rich meadow scenes that are presented as Hoss recalls his youth and civilian adult life make for even more power against the cold, industrial feeling established by the prison walls and lighting. It leaves one wondering for just a moment, if in fact Hoss’ might have actually regretted taking part in the Holocaust, but that wonder lasts only a second. It is just one more example of the importance of the cinematography to this presentation. When the overall work behind the lens is considered along with the movie’s story and the work of Fuhrmann and Marczewski, the whole comes together to make The Interrogation a historical drama that is done right. Maybe just maybe one day American movie makers and studio heads will take a movie such as this as a guiding point when they make their next historical drama(s).
Corinth films’ recent re-issue of the independent Israeli historical drama, The Interrogation is a welcome addition to this year’s field of DVD and BD re-issues. That is because it is such a stark contrast to all of the movies based on actual events that are churned out by American studios every year. It is a welcome cinematic breath of fresh air in that genre. The story is simple. It follows the interrogation of one of the most notorious members of the Nazi party, ironically, by a Polish interrogation judge. For those who don’t know, Poland is one of the nations that was ravaged by the Nazis, so that very aspect makes for its own interest. There are no overblown flashback scenes, no unnecessary dialogue and soliloquies, or anything else that is so common from American studios in the genre’s movies. The acting is also simple, making it that much more engaging, again so counter to that of so much American cinematic drama. The cinematography puts the finishing touch to the presentation, as it plays into the movie’s overall mood in its own unique way. It brings everything together, completing the presentation. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of this movie’s presentation. All things considered, they make The Interrogation one of this year’s top new DVD and BD re-issues.
The Interrogation is available now. More information on this and other titles from Corinth Films is available at:
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