Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Nuremberg

A generally well-produced TV-Miniseries, with a particularly shocking second act. It doesn't deeply challenge issues, but informs, historically and emotionally.



The Nuremberg trials were a series of prosecutions run jointly by Allied nations in the wake of World War 2, to sentence the captured Nazi leaders for war crimes carried out under their command. Nuremberg was produced in 2000, starring Alec Baldwin as cheif prosecutor Robert Jackson, and Brian Cox as Hermann Göring - the former second in command of Nazi Germany, who establishes himself as a very Hitler-esque figure, with his radical ideas backed by incredible charisma.

The film portrays Jackson as idealistic, and Göring as conniving. Jackson is determined that the Nazis be given a fair trial; that justice be served. Göring is determined to exploit the court system to escape his fate. The two serve as tent poles for the two sides of the case, but there are a plethora of other characters and subplots revolving around them.

The series (available as a 3 hour film) is a generally well produced, well acted, well written courtroom drama, with a twist: the subject matter. The atrocities commited by Nazi Germany are hardly a topic of light entertainment, so the film never treats it as such. During the second hour, the Allies bring evidence against the Germans in the form of witnesses, documents, and stories of first hand accounts of the massacre of the Jews in the death camps. Then they bring in a film.

I have to admit, I looked away for most of this sequence. The scene alternates between the shocked faces (including Göring) and real footage shot at the deathcamps. It's difficult to bear. The film drives home the terrifying reality that these events actually took place. Amidst all the staginess and glossy fiction of the rest of the film, this sequence stands in stark contrast. The film ends, and everyone reacts appropriately (except Göring), and the films narrative rolls on. But in light of this scene, the rest of the movie takes on a darker tone.

There seems to be an intense personal rivalry implied between Jackson and Göring, with the way the camera frames them as they stare eachother down each time they enter the courtroom - and the scenes between the two distinguished actors are mesmerizing - but it felt a little hollow to me. It felt like this conflict is only emphasised because they are the two main characters, when really the most interesting relationships Göring has are with Gilbert, the Jewish psychologist, and Tex, the soldier that watches his door. There is some really good drama there, and it paints a frightening portrait of the way that Hitler cooerced an entire nation under his rule. But against Jackson, Göring seems only to be hostile, not horrifyingly apathetic, or fiendishly friendly. Gilbert decides that now he knows what true evil is: the complete lack of empathy.

Nuremberg does justice to its material, with a solidly excecuted drama surrounding a particularly shocking incident. That incident is depicted effectively and powerfully, and informs the rest of the film with its devastating ugliness, as the characters strive to do what is right. Sure, the moral dilemmas are black and white, and the outcome is already known, but this is history and it's real. It's important to remember.