Review: Philippe Mora Takes A Personal Journey Into History With THREE DAYS IN AUSCHWITZ

3.5 out of 5 stars


A solemn and contemplative investigation into the infamous concentration camp, Three Days In Auschwitz is director Philippe Mora’s personal journey into the past to discover what life was like for those trapped behind the razor wire during WWII. He visits the camp on three different occasions to understand and solidify his thoughts and feelings about this cataclysmic time in history (Mora’s mother barely escaped confinement in Auschwitz and his father was in the French Resistance).

Three Days In Auschwitz isn’t a traditional documentary – it’s very much through the eyes of Mora, often using hand-held camera to capture snippets and moments at the concentration camp. He calls his own documentary ‘cinematic notes about Auschwitz’, and the piece feels like a digital notepad, with Mora’s musings set against various imagery. Many of his asides to camera feel like a stream of consciousness, thoughts brought to the fore by his investigation. Scored by Eric Clapton, music plays a large part in Three Days In Auschwitz. It creates a mood and atmosphere that ties-in with Mora’s investigation.

Mora’s film may be about history, but it’s not about historical facts. He states that he’s creating a document for his kids and grand kids, but this is as much for him as it is for his family.This is more about understanding Mora’s own personal history and it feels like a project that has been brought about as a type of therapy. He will often show his artwork, inspired by Hitler and the war, using this as yet another release valve for his emotions. His unrelenting passion for the topic is evident and he even interviews his mother, again highlighting how this is a very personal project. However, the most powerful moment comes when he shows documentary footage shot by the British Army when they arrived in Auschwitz at the end of the war. This brief moment has echoes of Alain Resnais’ 1955 documentary, Night And Fog and it finally brings to the fore the true extent of the atrocities that were carried out.

Three Days In Auschwitz is as much an insight into the mindset of Philippe Mora as it is about Auschwitz and World War II. It looks at these through the eyes and emotions of the filmmaker, offering up personal opinion on the war and the Nazis. There’s no fixed narrative tale, just a stream of consciousness and handheld camera footage to draw the viewer into Mora’s investigation.