Germany 2017

Synopsis

There are places in Europe that have remained as painful memories of the past - factories where humans were turned into ash.
These places are now memorial sites that are open to the public and receive thousands of tourists every year.
The film’s title refers to the eponymous novel written by W.G. Sebald, dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust.
This film is an observation of the visitors to a memorial site that has been founded on the territory of a former concentration camp. Why do they go there? What are they looking for?

Directors Statement

I never thought that I would come here. Passing by I saw the sign and turned off. The passage leads alongside the road and turns to the side. The buildings are arranged in a semi-circle: houses where people live, normal people in normal houses. Cars are lined up in the parking area. It is a quiet and hot summer day. Nothing unusual.
Do these buildings belong to the territory? To the right, to the left, downwards, there is a fence and the entrance is built in perfect symmetry. People walk around behind the fence – tourists. All of them follow a strict logic. From one area filled with charcoal and framed with white stones to the next. A sign, a barrack number, next sign, next barrack number, infirmary, a barn.
People walk around alone or in groups. They look into windows and doors, stand at the information desks. People are interested in everything – each rock, every inscription.
This is the place where people were exterminated; this is the place of suffering and grief.
And now, I am here. A tourist. With all the typical curiosities of a tourist. Without any notion of what it was like to be a prisoner in the concentration camp having a number, every day waiting for death, clinging to life. I stand here and look at the machinery for the extermination of the human body. Traces of life, sometime ago, long ago, here and now.
What am I doing here? What are all these people doing here, moving in groups from one
object to another?
The reason that induces thousands of people to spend their summer weekends in the former concentration camp is one of the mysteries of these memorial sites. One can refer to the good will and the desire to sense compassion and mercy that Aristotle related to tragedy. But this explanation doesn’t solve the mystery. Why a love couple or a mother with her child goes on a sunny summer day to look at the ovens in a crematorium?
To try to come to grips with this, I made this film.

Biography

Sergei Loznitsa, Ukrainian director, scriptwriter, producer, was born in Baranovichi (USSR, now Belarus). He grew up in Kiev and in 1987 graduated from the Kiev Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Applied Mathematics. In 1997 Loznitsa graduated from the Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow. He has directed 18
internationally acclaimed documentary films. His two feature films, MY JOY (Schastye moe, 2010) and IN THE FOG (V tumane, 2012) had their world premieres at the Festival de Cannes, where IN THE FOG received the FIPRESCI prize. Loznitsa’s feature-length documentary film MAIDAN, dedicated to the Ukrainian Revolution, premiered in 2014 at the Festival de Cannes. His feature-length documentary film THE EVENT (Sobytie) that revisits the dramatic moments of August 1991 in the USSR, a failed coup d’état attempt (known as Putsch) premiered at
la Biennale di Venezia in 2015 and was in last year's EFA Documentary Selection.

Documentaries
AUSTERLITZ | 2016
THE EVENT (Sobytie) | 2015
THE OLD JEWISH CEMETERY (Staroe evreiskoe kladbische) | 2014
MAIDAN (Maidan) | 2014
REFLECTIONS (Otrazheniya) | 2014
THE LETTER (Pismo) | 2012
THE MIRACLE OF SAINT ANTHONY (Tchudo sviatogo Antonia) | 2012
NORTHERN LIGHT (Severniy svet) | 2008
REVUE (Predstavlenie) | 2008
ARTEL (Artel) | 2006
BLOCKADE (Blokada) | 2005
FACTORY (Fabrika) | 2004
LANDSCAPE (Landshaft) | 2003
PORTRAIT (Portret) | 2002
SETTLEMENT (Poselenie) | 2001
THE TRAIN STOP (Polustanok) | 2000
LIFE, AUTUMN (Zhizn, osen) | 1998
TODAY WE ARE GOING TO BUILD A HOUSE (Segodnya mi postroim dom) | 1996

Feature Films
A GENTLE CREATURE | 2017
IN THE FOG (V tumane) | 2012
MY JOY (Schastye moe) | 2010
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Cast & Crew

Directed by : Sergei Loznitsa

Written by : Sergei Loznitsa

Produced by : Sergei Loznitsa

Director of Photography : Jesse Mazuch, Sergei Loznitsa

Editor : Danielius Kokanauskis

Sound Design : Vladimir Golovnitski

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Documentary Selection 2017