The Conference. M, 107 minutes. 3 stars
The notorious 1942 conference at which senior Nazi Party officials met to decide on the fate of the 11 million Jewish citizens living in their German and captured territories has been depicted on screen a handful of times before, notably Heinz Shirk's 1984 drama The Wannsee Conference.
While the subject matter is distasteful, Matti Geschonneck's precise new film, made to mark the event's 80th anniversary, is a fascinating watch.
Screenwriters Magnus Vattrodt and Paul Mommertz have the conference's official documentation on which to base their screenplay.
They go for as thorough an historically accurate representation of the day as possible, while also imagining some of the social interplays and jockeying for position and notice amongst those around the table.
Convening at midday on January 20, 1942, in a charming villa at Grossen Wanssee outside of Berlin, senior figures from the Reich main Security Office, SiPo, the Gestapo, and the SS, along with regional senior public servants, met to discuss what we would all come to know as the Final Solution.
Reinhard Heydrich (Philipp Hochmair) has convened the conference, assisted by Ingeburg Werlemann (Lilli Fichtner) who is keeping the conference notes.
Figures around the table include Adolf Eichmann (Johannes Allmayer) and a dozen other names history remembers for their participation in the administration of genocide, including Gestapo head Heinrich Muller (Jakob Deihl), and Reich State Secretary Josef Buhler (Sascha Nathan) - the man who later sentences Sophie Scholl to death.
What a challenge filmmaker Geschonneck and his production team have here set for themselves - but that a new generation of German artists work to unpack these moments in their history is important. After playing earlier this year on German television, the film was made available free for viewing in Germany.
There's no way to make these proceedings or any their participants sympathetic. The filmmakers are damned-if-they-do, but as filmmakers constructing something an audience might want to watch, they're also damned-if-they-don't.
Where they succeed are the nuances of performance, the small movements, the exchanges between characters signified in a small eyebrow twitch or even the turning of observation away from characters, that capture what attending such a discussion is like, in this instance, and for these people.
One character is trying not to be seen stealing a glance at his watch, and the banality of that moment we all understand, of wishing a work meeting would hurry up, highlights for us the audience that concept of the banality of evil.
Pushing it further, the certainty of the fate of millions is prioritised or deprioritised depending on which public servant complains the loudest at this meeting about their workload.
These are chilling moments, rendered as dull and procedural.
The filmmakers help us understand the characters, for those not immersed in their World War II history, with junior staff helping organise the day looking through the windows and gossiping about the participants getting ready for the bigger discussion.
The production is painstakingly detailed, shot at the original locations and even the meeting's catering is reproduced, with salmon capers, cognac and coffee served over the discussion.
Credit must be given to the production team for the attention to detail.
Performances are uniformly subtle, with the actors having a wealth of archival material upon which to inform their character's experiences up to this point in the war.
Following the advice of Geschonneck - the son of a concentration camp survivor - they play the characters as attendees at a board meeting, not historically notorious Nazis.
The understated discussion around the disposal of so many Jewish citizens of Kiev, in so dispassionate a manner, is so unfortunately contemporary, it breaks through that banality and emotion is unavoidable for us, the audience.
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