Netflix UK review: The Eichmann Show (BBC)
James R | On 21, Jan 2015
If you told someone now that less than 80 years ago, a group of humans systemically murdered millions of people because of their race, would you believe them? For years after the end of World War II, even those in Israel did not believe the full extent of what the Nazis had carried out. The trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961, though, exposed that truth in harrowing detail.
The Eichmann Show follows the behind-the-scenes struggle to record and broadcast those court proceedings around the world. It’s a story that offers a similarly powerful revelation.
Martin Freeman stars as Milton Fruchtman, the producer determined to capture the events on tape. Hiring blacklisted director Leo Hurwitz (Anthony LaPaglia), the pair persuade the authorities to let their lenses into the court – a process that unfolds with an almost heist-like thrill. “Where are the cameras?” ask the legal officials shown around the prepared room, only to be shocked moments later when they see themselves filmed on hidden cameras.
The challenge of camouflaging the cameras inside the walls and fittings, though, was only a secondary concern, compared to the worry caused by death threats sent to Fruchtman’s family through the post. Director Paul Andrew Williams switches smoothly between the emotional danger and the practical peril of editing a live event, something that Leo drills into his production team over and over.
Williams shoots the period with flawless detail, but Simon Block’s script captures the feel of the time as much as the look; an exchange between Hurwitz and an Israeli on the roof of the court room only emphasises the country’s lack of confrontation with the horrors of the Holocaust, while the understated offering of cake from his landlady speaks volumes about what the television broadcast did for people both in Jerasulem and elsewhere.
The trial was edited daily and shown in 34 different countries, displaying the face of a monster to viewers around the world. The 90-minute movie occasionally gets caught up in highlighting the importance of certain words, cutting repeatedly over short segments, but it finds its impact in the small, silent moments in between. And so, while Freeman – whose American accent is impressive – pauses and frets nervously about whether they’ve got Eichmann’s collapse on film, the stoic Anthony LaPaglia anchors the drama with a growing obsession over his guilt. Everyone else watches the prosecution or witnesses, but Hurwitz stares straight at Adolf’s face, looking for some trace of humanity. Like Frost vs Nixon, The Eichmann Show understands the significance of the visual medium and how powerful it can be.
The seamless introduction of actual archive footage into proceedings communicates the shocking reality of what happened, but Leo’s resolute belief Eichmann will show remorse is equally sobering. “Everyone’s capable under the right circumstances…” he growls. 70 years on from World War II, this engrossing drama reminds us that people really did do this. It’s a chilling demonstration of the power of the close-up, the banality of evil and the importance of documenting things for every generation.
The Eichmann Show is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: BBC/Feelgood Fiction