The Peeremboom are a numerous family of Dutch Jews; The Maelestrom – A Family Chronicle re-uses and edits images mostly taken from their home movies collection, documents on the events of their family life from 1933 to 1942: the very years when Nazism was born and grew wide in Europe. In 1940, The Netherlands are invaded by Hitler’s army; of all the member of their family just one will survive the deportation in the concentration camps. Simultaneously to the Peerembooms’ story – who film until the day they are forced to abandon the house by the Germans – the editing alternated Seyss-Inquart’s film memories, the Nazi commissioner for the occupied Dutch terrotories.
The opposite destiny of two families – one doomed to extermination, the other to the guilt of the executioners – bestows a different quality to the two series of images, extraordinarily similar in showing frames of relaxed daily life. The archive material, in Forgács’s work, sometimes becomes exquisitely cinematographic: the use of freeze-frame stops the image in the moment of its perfection, catching the moment the frame peaks its “rightness” in composition. Some time, the presence of a gag raises the amateur film to a proper film; but the awareness of being on front of one of the most extraordinary historical documents about the Jew holocaust pushes the glance of the audience to an ethical distance, and toward the never stopping thought about what is exposed on film.
In Forgács’s masterful work the private dimension of the story of the Shoah is disruptive and never seen, and stands out as it had never happened before in cinema, both documentery and fiction.
video | B&W and colour