This Swiss drama of Holocaust survivors, directed by Beatrice Michel and Hans Sturm in collaboration with Villi Hermann, is slow, ponderous, wordy–and very moving. The weight of an unspeakable past makes itself apparent through the oblique dialogue and the gentle transitions from black and white to color, suggesting the characters’ unstable emotional relationship with the real world. Gyuri has survived slave labor in Buchenwald and elsewhere but has been rendered forever rootless, with “a desert inside him”; his story is relayed in flashbacks by those sitting shivah at his funeral, trying to explain him to his grieving daughter. The filmmakers echo Claude Lanzmann’s nine-hour documentary Shoah by omitting footage of the actual genocide and concentrating instead on its continuing effects in the present. The dislocations of Shoah survivors are evoked most deeply by the film’s dense tapestry of contradictory memories; Kaddisch gives us particles of a portrait that never produce the illusion of a whole being. Gyuri’s identity, like the Shoah itself, remains beyond the representational powers of cinema. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, September 11, 6:00, 312-443-3737. –Fred Camper
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.