The Specialist

A creepy but not especially edifying documentary feature (1999, 128 min.), directed by Eyal Silvan and written by him and Rony Brauman, compiled from 350 hours of previously inaccessible video footage recorded by Leo Hurwitz chronicling the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in the early 1960s. The opportunity to spend a couple of hours looking at Eichmann’s pinched, unyielding features yields plenty of questionsmany of them dealt with in Hannah Arendt’s controversial but definitive book of reportage and analysis, Eichmann in Jerusalem, which this film claims to have been inspired by. What’s most conspicuously missing is the kind of background information needed to assess many of Eichmann’s statements. Alas, the major response of this film to questions of this sort is unsatisfying rhetoric that comes across as morally tacky: passages of musique concrete used periodically to accompany the footage with intimations of mental anguish, and various avant-garde editing proceduresmost noticeably a flurry of jump cutsthrown in at various points to juice up the proceedings. (JR)

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