I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal

I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal

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Produced by Moriah Films, the media subdivision of The Simon Wiesenthal Center, I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal is predictably hagiographic in nature. As well it should be, given that Wiesenthal’s career as a Nazi hunter is nothing shy of heroic, his life an act of defiant survival in the face of unspeakable Holocaust atrocities, and an example of humanity’s capacity for altruism, self-sacrifice, and meting out true justice. An Austrian Jew working in Vienna as an architect before the war, Wiesenthal (who passed away in 2005) was rescued from imminent death at the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1945 by American forces, who not only reunited him with wife Cyla—the duo having lost 89 relatives in total to the Final Solution—but also allowed him to assist the U.S. war crimes office. Tracking down Nazis-in-hiding soon became his calling, and Richard Trank’s documentary uses a treasure trove of archival photos, movie footage, comments from relatives and colleagues, and copious clips from various Wiesenthal interviews to detail the man’s arduous quest to bring to trial SS scumbags such as Adolf Eichmann, Karl Silberbauer (Anne Frank’s arresting officer), Franz Stangl, and Hermine Braunsteiner-Ryan. Still, despite being comprehensive in scope and straightforward in execution, I Have Never Forgotten You lacks a thematic depth that might have made it more than simply a sturdy PBS-style doc. As the film’s title expresses, Wiesenthal’s work was fundamentally rooted in remembrance, yet the blessing and curse of memory—the latter conveyed by his admission in one interview that he still dreams of racing to Nazi cattle cars searching in vain for his mother—is fertile ground that Trank doesn’t fully plumb. Chronologically ordered facts, incidents, and anecdotes are its primary stock and trade, and while it’s tough to fault the film for wanting to provide a clear, complete portrait of its remarkable subject, at times one clamors for a slightly more creative, probing investigation of the consuming forces that drove Wiesenthal, as well as a little less of Nicole Kidman’s staid narration and Ben Kingsley’s overly dramatic, faux-expert analysis of the larger-than-life man he once portrayed in an HBO TV movie.

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DVD
Distributor
Luminous Velocity Releasing
Runtime
105 min
Rating
NR
Year
2007
Director
Richard Trank
Screenwriter
Richard Trank
Cast
Simon Wiesenthal, Nicole Kidman, Ben Kingsley