SYNAGOGUES ON FIRE

SYNAGOGUES ON FIRE
4 Stars
Year Released: 1996
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 4 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

This short video mixes images from Nazi propaganda films with original images. Still images alternate with footage which uses a jerky, slow frame rate. The disparate source material is well integrated by giving all of the images a grainy black and white texture, occasionally punctuated by the shocking blood red of a Nazi flag or of flames. The highly effective, menacing sound score is a blend of cheering crowds, Hitler’s speeches, and ominous electronic tones.
The video begins with an incendiery, anti-semitic quote from Martin Luther in 1544 (“…set their synagogues on fire…”) and ends with a quote from 19th century German poet Heine (“When one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people.”) I take this as a reference to the Jewish view of a synagogue as a “school,” a place of scholarship and reverence for the Holy Books, as well as the Nazi practices of book burning and of genocide. In the middle of the video, we see a young man burning holes in a letter with a cigarette, an act which is evocative at once of torture and censorship.
This video conveys the feeling of a growing wave of intolerence and hysteria leading to genocide. Impressively, Newman achieves this using completely nondidactic means, through a poetic and evocative montage of images and sounds. We see a young Jewish boy trying to open a locked door. We see images of the Hitler Youth. We see a young girl, who could be Anne Frank, carrying suitcases into an attic. The horror of the gas chambers is evoked quite chillingly through indirect means; showing strands of hair falling to the floor, and sets of teeth. Newman has a sure eye and ear for creating montages that carry emotional weight and portent, without overloading the viewer. He packs a tremendous amount of provocative ideas and feelings into a very short video.



Posted on March 10, 2004 in Reviews by
Buffer


If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
Popular Stories from Around the Web

Tell us what you're thinking...





Comments are governed by the Terms of Use of this Site. Click on the "Report Comment" link if you feel a comment is in violation of the Terms of Use, and the comment will be reviewed appropriately.