Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rape of Europa

This is one of the most moving World War II documentaries I can recall seeing. Many World War II documentaries focus on battles, leaders, and military strategies. This documentary, in contrast, looks at World War II from the perspective of culture and art. In doing so, it makes clear the great human suffering of all affected civilian populations.

The documentary focuses on Nazi Germany's obsession with stealing all the masterpieces in European museums that it deemed worthy, and destroying all art and culture it deemed inferior or degenerate. It also highlights the contribution of European citizens, museum workers, and the US Army's Monuments Men in saving European art.

The narrator, Joan Allen, has a very soothing, calm voice, which provides a balanced background to the emotional content of the film. The film includes interviews with people who lived through the events, which adds to the authenticity and emotional impact of the film.

The film examines controversial questions and allows different sides to present their case. For example, is a soldier's life or a great work of art more important?

Perhaps the most moving part of the film is the look at restoration and reparation. There are still many pieces of art missing. Some may have been destroyed, but many are in a collection somewhere, waiting to be discovered. The film also highlights the effort of one German man to try to identify the heirs of Jewish religious items stolen by the Nazis; he returns the items to the heirs so they can be used in religious ceremonies once again.

The only negative thing I can think to say about the film is that it might lead the uninformed viewer to think World War II was solely caused by Hitler being rejected from art school and wanting to acquire a good art collection. But that is nitpicking. This is an awesome documentary with a unique point of view. Rent it!

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