2008 saw a glut of mediocre World War II or Holocaust films (Defiance, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Valkyrie), while last year reinvigorated the subgenre with Quentin Tarantino’s controversial Inglourious Basterds. Perhaps due to the exhaustion of conventional Holocaust and/or WWII narratives, 2010 has so far been the year of the Holocaust documentary: Harlan: In the Shadow of "Jew Süss,"A Film Unfinished, and now Nuremberg, a reconstituted version of the official 1948 U.S. government film about the International Military Tribunal created to prosecute the Nazi high command. Originally written and directed by Stuart Schulberg and restored by Schulberg’s daughter Sandra more than six decades after the film’s mysteriously canceled U.S. theatrical release, Nuremberg bears evidence of the constraints placed on its creators at the same time as it displays how they nonetheless fashioned a succinct and stirring account of a landmark subject. Since only 25 hours of courtroom footage were shot, Schulberg was forced to employ a narrator—the original soundtrack having been lost, Liev Schreiber now does the honors—and incorporate footage of the rallies, invasions, and atrocities committed under the Third Reich to augment aural documents (preserved in full) and the few visually captured courtroom scenes. Unlike Christian Delage’s 2006 documentary Nuremberg: The Nazis Facing Their Crimes, which uses much of the same material, this Nuremberg is more in-the-moment, laying out the prosecution’s case point by point, allowing the defense to incriminate itself with lame excuses, and showing the concentration camp images—images that had only just recently stunned the world— to speak for themselves.
Opens September 29 at Film Forum