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Pohled odjinud


Pohled odjinud

27. 10. 2013

Festivalové snímky pohledem zahraničních kritiků - snímky izraelského režiséra Eyala Sivana

The Specialist and The Banality of Evil

Níže uvedené odstavce pocházejí z odborné eseje Grega Diglina The Specialist and The Banality of Evil. Stať se věnuje snímku izraelského režiséra Eyala Sivana Specialista, portrét moderního zločince (1999), který vznikl během procesu s nacistickým byrokratem Adolfem Eichmannem. Hlavním tématem eseje je souvislost mezi Sivanovým filmem a knihou slavné židovské intelektuálky Hannah Arendtové Eichmann v Jeruzalémě. Obě díla spojuje nejen myšlenka banálního zla, jehož ztělesněním je právě poslušný úředník Eichmann, ale i kritický postoj k radikálnímu sionismu.

Sivan chose to address the magnitude of the crimes committed by the Nazis against European Jewry by focusing on the testimony Eichmann gave at his trial. This approach is unusual, as far as documentaries about the Holocaust are concerned, inasmuch as the majority of such films tend to give voice to the survivors rather than the perpetrators. Though Sivan included the testimony of a few survivors in The Specialist, the primary concern of the film is not for the audience to become more familiar with personal perspectives from Holocaust victims. By providing a window upon Eichmann and his interactions with the judges and lawyers who tried him, Sivan successfully portrayed the Nazi functionary as an ordinary man, rather than a faceless demon. 


Arendt wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem partly as a response to the Holocaust, but significantly, in order to use Eichmann a case-study example of her theories. In a letter to a friend in September 1963, Arendt wrote of Eichmann in Jerusalem: “If one reads the book carefully, one sees that Eichmann was much less influenced by ideology than I assumed in the book on totalitarianism. The impact of ideology upon the individual may have been overrated by me. Even in the totalitarianism book, in the chapter on ideology and terror. I mention the curious loss of ideological content that occurs among the elite of the movement. The movement itself becomes all important; the content of anti-semitism [sic] for instance gets lost in the extermination policy, for extermination would not have come to an end when no Jew was left to be killed. In other words, extermination per se is more important than anti-semitism [sic] or racism.” This explanation, given by Arendt, tallies with the depiction of Eichmann she provided within Eichmann in Jerusalem. Eichmann, who had Jewish relatives, sublimated his personal convictions to the tenets of the totalitarian ideology to which he subscribed: Nazism. Sivan used The Specialist as a conduit by which to gain an audience for his pre-existing political agenda, in much the same way as Arendt had within Eichmann in Jerusalem. Like Arendt, Sivan went to significant lengths to show Eichmann as a normal individual, who organised the murder of Europe’s Jewry purely because his superiors within the Nazi party had ordered him to.


The lack of a speaking narrator is a feature of The Specialist which warrants discussion. Rather than having an omnipotent, god-like voice describing the proceedings, Sivan allows characters and events to speak for themselves. This approach was pioneered by Claude Lanzmann in his landmark Holocaust documentary Shoah (1985). This is somewhat problematic for a couple of reasons. If the viewer is not familiar with events of the trial through reading works such as Arendt’s, he or she is likely to accept Sivan’s portrayal of them. The fact is that The Specialist does have a narrator: Sivan. Like Lanzmann in Shoah, Sivan narrates the trial through his methods of editing the footage. Sivan intended to provide a narrative for events, which extended beyond the Jerusalem courtroom in which Eichmann was tried between 1961 and 1962. He meant to comment on human nature, and I would argue that he did so with relative success. Through showing Eichmann performing ordinary, borderline obsessive compulsive actions - such as cleaning his spectacles - and with a nervous twitching lip, Sivan portrays him as a character to be pitied rather than reviled.


“We may not be living in totalitarian conditions, but for some people, the way Eichmann acted is normal, even desirable,” Eyal Sivan once said. This statement could be used to summarise the central argument of The Specialist and also Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt perceived issues with the way in which the State of Israel staged Eichmann’s trial, for which she was accused of being an opponent of Zionism. Sivan, through his record of making films which are openly critical of the Israeli government’s program of discrimination in regard to the Palestinians, is openly anti-Zionist. The concern which both Sivan and Arendt mean to promote through their works is to discuss the possibilities of the bad that can occur when normal people follow rules without considering them critically first. For Arendt, Eichmann epitomised this danger, whereas, from Sivan’s perspective, it is evidenced when Israelis tolerate the cruelty of their nation in respect to the Palestinian people.


Greg Diglin