French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann passed away at the Saint-Antoine Hospital in Paris Thursday, as reported by the New York Times. He was 92 years old.
Central to Lanzmann’s legacy is Shoah, the over nine-hour film documenting the Holocaust through firsthand accounts of victims and perpetrators alike. Abstaining from use of archival and historical footage, the film, only Lanzmann’s second, gave a new, intimate look into the atrocities inflicted, cutting out the safe distance between viewer and reality that archival footage offers.
“Making a history was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to construct something more powerful than that,” Lanzmann is quoted as saying in the trailer for Shoah, which Paste named the second greatest documentary of all time in 2015.
Lanzmann continued making films after the release of Shoah in 1985, the most recent of which being The Four Sisters—a group of four documentaries, each devoted to a woman who survived the Holocaust: The Hippocratic Oath belongs to Ruth Elias, Baluty to Paula Biren, The Merry Flea to Ada Lichtman and Noah’s Ark to Hannah Marton. As shared by Mubi, the footage is taken from interviews not used in Shoah. Lanzmann, himself from a Jewish family who immigrated to France, was a member of the French Resistance during World War II. Even so, Lanzmann did not speak for his interviewees, and the powerful testimonies of these four women are allowed the space they deserve in their own films.
A keeper of stories, though Lanzmann has passed, his films are a living reminder of the horrors humans are capable of inflicting and enduring, and that with humanitarian crises still occurring, one should not avert their eyes.
You can watch the trailer for Shoah below.