Past Continuous: Remembering World War II

This retrospective brings together a selection of widely acclaimed and less well-known works that address the memory of the war, its beginning, its course, and its aftermath. The films show some of the different ways in which the war was experienced and remembered; they challenge established accounts by bringing in unknown evidence as well as by shedding light on known events from new angles. The end of the war inspired people all over the world with new hopes which shaped post-war visions of past and present. While some of these hopes were revealed as illusions and dispelled all too swiftly by the coming of the Cold War, it is essential for us to face them, as well as the shocking discoveries, if we are to understand the past. The retrospective shows that even 60 years on, the experience of World War II remains a fundamental cultural and political reference for every subsequent generation.

Among the screenings you will find a 'massacre reconstruction' by Humphrey Jennings, at once challenging and enriching the documentary genre, two accounts of the Nuremberg trial by allies whose relations were starting to chill, the shocking footage on the German concentration camps supervised by Alfred Hitchcock, and a recording of British border controls in post-war Germany, sorting out 'desirable' from 'undesirable' refugees from the Soviet zone, which is unique in its roughness. Inspired by the victory over Nazism, the famous left-wing Dutch artist Joris Ivens projects post-war hopes onto emerging democracies, unwilling to face the mounting discrepancies between declared principles and their implementation. Key figures of the West German 'new cinema' of the 1960s, Alexander Kluge and Peter Schamoni focus on the surviving traces of the past in the present, paying attention to alternative ways of living with and in history. Melanie Spitta uses the medium of film to publicize a silenced trauma, the persecution of the Sinti. While for Spitta personal accounts serve to bridge the growing time-gap, Shohei Imamura with his virtuoso mastery contrasts public and private recollections on screen by juxtaposing the love stories of an adventurous bar hostess with footage of the transformation of Japanese society under American occupation. The works by Claude Chabrol and Hartmut Bitomsky expand the cinema's potential for philosophical reflection, exemplifying not only the changing treatment of war experiences but also the ongoing meta-reflection on the power of the visual medium. The experience of a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, the documents of seemingly 'peaceful' existence in areas remote from the front which appear in Péter Forgács' film, or the arial footage of Auschwitz turned into an object of meditation by Harun Farocki, all invite you to explore a variety of stances towards the past, adopted by those who lived through the war and those who seek to reconstruct it from the remaining fragments.

This program is organized in partnership with the Hungarian National Film Archive and Film Museum. On behalf of the Verzió team I would like to thank Vera Surányi, Ildikó Berkes, and Enikő Löwensohn for working together on this program.

Oksana Sarkisova
Program Director