Cinema review: The Sorrow and the Pity (1969)

I had never heard of this masterpiece until Rod the Crunchy Con blogged about it recently. It's a French documentary that interviews several people from an area of occupied France in the Auvergne region. One is a proud Nazi, one a communist who was a resistance fighter, one joined and fought for the Nazis on the Eastern front, some were English who aided the resistance or the invasion. I think Ken Burns learned everything he needed to know on making documentaries from this film. It is a 4 and a half hour monster of sub title reading unless you understand French. Some are unrepentant. Some are repentant. Some were outcasts before the occupation but achieved redemption by resisting despite the risk of capture and torture and execution. Collaboration preserved many French lives unless they were also Jewish lives. Anti-Semitism bubbled up easily after the Nazi occupation. The worst atrocity mentioned in the film was the deportation of Jewish adults to the camps, but the Germans didn't want the children. However, the Vichy government insisted they go also. They all died, thousands. In the meantime, the resistance consisted of the criminal, the under class, and the immoral who had nothing to lose if they were caught. Their lives were already worthless. Resisting gave them purpose and identity and redemption. This movie is worth your time.

We all like to believe we would have voted for Lincoln, assisted in the Underground Railroad, fought for the North, argued for Indian rights, and marched for Civil Rights. But those opportunities have passed. What injustices do we live with now? What injustices are we at peace with? What injustices are we so tired of that we no longer can muster up the indignation?

I'm glad I am not under occupation by a genocidal regime. But I am a citizen of another kingdom, an ambassador to this world. Where have I collaborated? Where have I compromised? What am I holding onto that is of this world?

Comments

Popular Posts