The problem with unimaginable horror is this: it is unimaginable. For Alfred Weitzler and Rudolf Bruber, the two Slovak Jews who fled Auschwitz in 1944 to bring evidence of systematic genocide into the camp, the hardest part of issuing The Verba-Weitzler report was simply believed. Director Peter Bebzak’s “The Auschwitz Report”, which officially entered Slovakia’s International Features category at last year’s Academy Awards, measures the vast gap between the writers’ two-row tragic experience and the reception of much more nuanced words and confusion than they expected. The relentless brutality of the scenes in the film at Auschwitz is a reminder that people sometimes have to tremble at the assumption of their complacency and realize that people are capable of committing atrocities against other people.
Bebzak wants to make sure viewers never forget what happened, and so his monochromatic images, colors and shades of hope, are designed to pierce the conscience. The fact that Wetzler and Vrva – better known here as Freddie (Noel Zukzor) and Valer (Peter Ondrejica), respectively – had trouble believing the title, at least in distinguishing “The Auschwitz Report” from other Holocaust-related films. But the strategy of dedicating two-thirds of Bebzak’s film to Freddie and Valer’s escape, along with the fate of the other men in their barracks, gives way to one-scene surprises that lead to a startling closure.
In Auschwitz-Birkenau, the early scenes are the most striking, depicting the daily brutality and slaughter with a fixed, unblinking gaze. Bebzak immediately records the results of inspections on those who try to escape, but he wants to establish a contrast between the average viewer’s response to the shock and shock of the average visitor. When Freddie leaves the barracks with a shaking table of corpses piled on the roof, his mind shifts to gathering information instead of the obscenity of the Nazi genocide. He and his fellow “writers” will turn the world’s attention to Auschwitz in an urgent search at the risk of their lives, but they have long since conditioned themselves to survive.
Although divided between flashbacks and dream sequences from Freddie’s perspective, “The Auschwitz Report” describes the time since April 1, when Freddie and Vallar get stuck under a pile of wooden pallets, waiting for the right moment to escape. The camp, meanwhile, has had its comrades in the Ninth Barracks punished for their disappearances, forced to stand in the cold day and night – a routine shattered by the punitive actions of a Nazi officer. As a unit, they promised to do everything, including sacrificing their lives, so that the Allies knew the truth about the camp and bombed their explosions. Bebzak draws this part of the film much longer than expected, but it also highlights the friendly attitude and responsibilities shared among the prisoners, as well as the difficult challenges of each step towards justice.
When two eyewitnesses finally find themselves in front of a British bureaucrat for the Red Cross – John Hanner starring in a beautiful twist, an actor best known for comedies such as “Four Marriages and a Funeral” – Give room to do. This seems absurd, based on what we have just seen that the story of Freddie and Valer can never be questioned or shortened. But the deviation from the official humanitarian account is so extreme that faith, for a suspect like Hannah’s character, denies all reason. The film is a powerful reminder that it can never underestimate the historical evil that can happen again.