Film review by Susan Kandell Wilkofsky
“Final Account,” directed and produced by Luke Holland, is a remarkably candid, fascinating documentary that explores the filmmaker’s personal quest for identity. Over the 12 years of making the film, Holland sought to confront everyday Germans and simply ask them if they knew what was happening in the war and to what degree they were complicit. Their surprisingly candid answers ranging from pride to denial will send a chill down your spine.
It incorporates interviews not with infamous monsters — the names with which we are familiar — but instead with elderly, aging Germans. Both men and women. Those who served as SS members, Wehrmacht fighters, concentration camp guards, bookkeepers, farmers and silent civilian witnesses. Their ghastly stories and memories are punctuated by eerily silent scenes where many of the atrocities took place.
Holland, born in England to a mother who was a Jewish refugee from Vienna, was raised in Paraguay in a German-speaking, Christian community. He was completely oblivious to his Jewish heritage. His mother didn’t speak to him about his true faith, nor the fact that his Viennese maternal grandparents perished in Nazi concentration camps. This unanticipated realization laid the foundation for his extended journey delving into the meaning of identity.
I had so many questions after screening the film and was pleased that they were almost entirely addressed in the press notes (not in the film itself). Where does one go to find elderly Germans willing to talk about their roles in the war, what they saw and how they felt about the politics of the day? Did the interviewees know he was Jewish? Could their memories be relied upon to be accurate? Were they telling the truth about their experiences? Were some folks contrite only because it is perhaps politically correct?
If you see the film (and I sincerely urge you to), please contact me at 3StarsCinema@gmail.com and hopefully I’ll be able to share some of the information given to the reviewing press. The twenty-nine pages gives insight into how the film was made, the filmmaker’s interview strategies and how the information can be viewed in the context of today’s world. Sadly, Holland died in June 2020, a mere three months before “Final Account” premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2020.
One final note: I am often asked if a film contains distressing photographs and images. “Final Account” presents disconcerting film clips of child indoctrination, much of which has not been seen before, but it is rated PG-13 for thematic material and some disturbing images. However, actual footage taken in the camps is minimal. What is spoken in the film is much more disturbing.
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and some disturbing images
Language: German with English subtitles
“Final Account” will open on Friday, May 21, at various locations in the Metroplex and beyond. This is a partial listing of cities and theaters; please check for showtimes.
- Angelika Film Center Dallas & Plano
- AMC Stonebriar 24
- AMC Grapevine Mills 30
- AMC North Park
- Cinemark West Plano
- Fort Worth
- Bee Cave
- The Woodlands