It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation is engaged in making a record of as many such memories as can be recorded from those who saw the tragedy with their own eyes. The eventual goal is 50,000 taped interviews. "The Last Days'' features five of those survivors, and others, telling their own stories. It focuses on the last year of the war, when Adolf Hitler, already defeated and with his resources running out, revealed the depth of his racial hatred by diverting men and supplies to the task of exterminating Hungary's Jews. At that late point, muses one of the witnesses in this film, couldn't the Nazis have just stopped? Used their resources where they were needed for the war effort? Even gotten some "brownie points'' by ending the death camps? No, because for the fanatic it is the fixed idea, not the daily reality, that obsesses the mind. Those apologists like the British historian David Irving, who argue that Hitler was not personally aware of many details of the Holocaust, are hard pressed to explain why his military mind could approve using the dwindling resources of a bankrupt army to kill still more innocent civilians.
In Spielberg's "Schindler's List'' there are the famous shots of the little girl in the red coat (in a film otherwise shot in black and white). Her coat acts as a marker, allowing us to follow the fate of one among millions. "The Last Days,'' directed by James Moll, is in a way all about red coats--about a handful of survivors, and what happened to them.
One describes the Nazis' brutality toward children, and says, "That's when I stopped talking to God.'' Another, Renee Firestone, confronts the evasive Dr. Hans Munch, who was acquitted in war crimes trials; his defense was that he spared the lives of some prisoners by conducting harmless medical experiments on them. But Firestone believes he was responsible for the death of her sister Klara, and when he grows vague in his answers, she grows angry. Anyone who worked in a death camp has much to be vague about.
There is another passage where a woman, now around 70, remembers instructions to Hungarian Jews to gather up their belongings for a trip by train. She took along a precious bathing suit, one she was looking forward to wearing at the pool as any teenage girl might, and as she describes the fate of that suit, and of herself and her family, we hear a lifelong regret: In a moment, she was denied the kind of silly, carefree time a teenage girl deserves.
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