I watch a lot of genocide films since they are a large part of what I’m studying. This, of course, means watching more than my fair share of Holocaust films. Although not directly about the Holocaust, The Flat is a strange and unexpected story about the discovery of secrets following one of the worst genocides in human history.
The film is a documentary, by filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger, as he decides to film the emptying of his grandmother’s apartment. She has just died at 98 and the family has left the apartment untouched for three weeks. I have no idea why he began filming in the first place, since none of what happened appears to have been planned and therefore he couldn’t have known what he’d find.
I found some of the film to be infuriating since his mother is a completely mercenary and unfeeling person. She is quite clear that nothing in the apartment nor anything about her mother interests her, beyond anything left in the apartment which might have some monetary value. Goldfinger eventually stops her from throwing away all the documents and starts looking through them. To his great surprise, he finds Nazi propaganda which leads him on a trail to discover that his grandparents had been close friends with Eichmann’s boss. Yes. The Eichmann. His superior was a man named von Mildenstein and Goldfinger’s grandparents vacationed with the von Mildensteins on more than one occasion and visited back and forth for many years. Both before and after the war. He also learns that the relationship continues despite a family member dying in the camps.
Goldfinger visits many people on his quest, including the daughter of von Mildenstein. This woman refuses to believe that her father was a Nazi, even after he proves it to her. And his own mother refuses at first to believe that her grandmother was in a camp. It’s a little revolting from both of them.
There is so much denial in this film it’s a little sickening, and disappointing. I don’t know why I thought that people were facing the reality now. From my studies, I’ve read that the current generations of young people in Germany, Israel and the United States are adamant about knowing the truth. It’s interesting that they are able to come to this conviction with parents and grandparents such as those seen in this film, who refuse to acknowledge that their family members were even aware of what was going on, much less actively involved in or affected by Nazi hatred of Jews. Nonetheless, it’s an important film. It shows the large variety of reactions to the Holocaust that exist today. It also lets the world know that not everything was black and white during the Holocaust. Regardless of how much we wish it weren’t the case, some stories are not as clearcut as we’d like.
It’s hard to stomach how little his mother cared about her parents or grandparents or what they went through, but otherwise it’s a very interesting documentary and a lot different than the collection of films that came before it. Furthermore, this film adds to the more recent generation of Holocaust related films that examine other aspects of the genocide and refuse to be restricted by the unwritten rules of Holocaust filmmaking. Although the revelations made in this film are sickening, it’s good to see a film that doesn’t follow the Holocaust film formula that’s been used in the past.
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