I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal
Now Showing at: Mariemont Theatre.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Ever since the end of the Second World War, documentary films have chronicled
the horrors of Nazi atrocities. Many of those images are burned in our collective
consciousness, never to be forgotten…which is as it should be. But, regardless
of how much material has been covered in the intervening years, there’s
always something new to learn.
The new film I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal
chronicles the history and work of one of the heroes of the post-war era. He
has been portrayed in an HBO movie by Ben Kingsley, and been both a real character
and inspired a fictional character in two other films. I Have Never Forgotten You
looks at Wiesenthal through interviews with friends, colleagues, his daughter,
and the man himself, as television programs covered him for years prior to his
death in 2005.
Writer-producer-director Richard Trank is a two-time Oscar winner for his documentaries
The Long Way Home and Genocide, and is now honoring on film a man who rates
as one of his heroes.
It’s a film that should be seen for several reasons, but it’s not
without flaws. To see the film is to once again remind the viewer what has passed,
and what must never be repeated. The archival footage and photos are both enlightening
and horrific. And it honors a man who dedicated his entire life to pursuing
the cause of justice for those who could no longer seek justice for themselves.
The film’s problems lie in it’s style, which is at odds with its
subject. We learn that Simon Wiesenthal was a trained architect, and are shown,
briefly, a couple of sketches he made at the death camps. It would have been
nice to see more of his art, as his talent offered a new perspective on the
subject. We learn that Simon Wiesenthal had a crackerjack sense of humor, and
was constantly regaling those around him with jokes, but that side of his personality
is not revealed. It’s fitting that a tribute to such a man have a degree
of reverence, but not to the point of being stoic.
The biggest minus is the narration by Nicole Kidman. She delivers the voice-over
in a hushed, emotionless monotone that is almost sleep inducing. Yes, she adds
“name value” to the production, but is not an asset to the film.
The assets are the worldwide location shots, the previously unseen archival
footage, and Wiesenthal himself…the man, his work, his legend. For these
reasons, and the reasons previously mentioned, I Have Never Forgotten You:
The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal, is a film that should be seen. Not only
to honor the subject, but to perhaps inspire the viewer to read a book about
him in order to learn even more about what inspires and drives a person to such