Friday, July 27, 2012

"Conspiracy" (2001)

On January 20, 1942, a small group of Nazi officials met at a villa near Berlin. Known to history as the Wannsee Conference, the meeting was called by Reinhard Heydrich to solidify control over and ensure support for his plan regarding the "final solution of the Jewish question." It was a key moment in the execution of the Holocaust.

"Conspiracy" is a dramatization of this event. The screenplay was based on the lone surviving copy of the minutes prepared by Heydrich's deputy, Adolf Eichmann, and does its best to be faithful to the actual timing and content of the meeting. This is not a typical war movie, as it is driven entirely by dialogue, mostly of the officials around the conference table. A YouTube user summed it up best: "No blood, no CGI, no make-up effects ... and still a very bone-chilling horror film!"

When my wife and I first saw it, she was disturbed by the way that it humanizes the meeting's participants. They are presented as a variety of personalities, each of them possessing a mixed bag of qualities, ones both admirable and vile. To her, Nazis were inhuman and should be portrayed as such. For me, this depiction is what makes the movie so powerful. It is a reminder that we are all capable of evil.

We tend to label evil acts as senseless, monstrous, incomprehensible. We approach them as if they confuse us. It is our way of pretending that evil is the work of demonic forces, rather than the actions of our fellow human beings. We want to hold evil as far away from us as possible. If it gets too close, if it looks too human, we might have to confront the evil we ourselves have tolerated or even participated in. The scary truth that "Conspiracy" reveals, one we so desperately want to avoid, is that the Holocaust and other genocides were perpetrated by people not so different than us.

Check out this movie on IMDb, Wikipedia, or YouTube.