Hunters botches the Holocaust – Washington Examiner

Posted: March 16, 2020 at 1:46 am


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The Talmud is wrong, Al Pacinos character says in the first episode of Hunters. Living well is not the best revenge. You know what the best revenge is? Revenge.

The show, which premiered in late February, follows Pacino as Meyer Offerman, a wealthy Holocaust survivor in 1977 New York who leads a band of misfit killers on a mission to torture and murder as many former Nazis as they can. Meanwhile, a new generation of white supremacists infiltrates the U.S. government and plans to institute a Fourth Reich to pick up where Adolf Hitler left off. The two groups soon begin killing each other in increasingly brutal ways.

The shows storytelling is clumsy, an uneven cross between the campy gore of Quentin Tarantinos Inglourious Basterds (2009) and the self-serious melodrama of Orson Welless The Stranger (1946). In one scene, Meyer and his gang crack lighthearted jokes as they slaughter Americas favorite enemies. But then, in overdramatic flashbacks to Auschwitz, we are reminded that Nazis are no laughing matter. These tonal jumps are disorienting, and the confusion is heightened by the fact that rookie writer and director David Weil throws in a circuitous subplot involving a lesbian FBI agent on the trail of Nazi infiltrators in NASA.

Weil attempts to tie the plot of Hunters together with an ongoing conversation between Meyer and his protege Jonah Heidelman (Logan Lerman). The question is whether it is fairer to deliver the Nazis justice or mercy. But during the final episode, Weil abandons the question almost completely. In a bizarre twist, Jonah learns that Meyer is no Jew at all, but rather a self-hating Nazi making amends for his war crimes by slaughtering his former compatriots.

After more than 10 hours of gratuitous violence pasted over with Meyers wry invocations of the Torah and Talmud, the revelation is jarring. If this were Philip Roth, we would have been treated to a whole other story agonizing over Jewish identity. But since this is post-prestige TV, Weil moves right on to the next twist: Hitler and his lover Eva Braun are still alive and apparently cavorting in Argentina no doubt a setup for a second season.

If we get one, I hope Weil will have matured. Hunters is an example of a beginner swinging for the fences in almost every way imaginable and missing every time.

The shows failure became apparent only two days after it dropped, when the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland denounced it for a depiction of sadistic torture that took place inside the camps. In the scene in question, a Nazi forces a Jewish chess champion to play him in a game of human chess. The Nazis and the Jew call out moves, and the various players move around the board, killing each other as directed. An aerial shot shows hundreds of naked, dead bodies rotting in the sun as the masterminds move their chess players.

The scene is horrific. It also has no basis in fact, which the museum was quick to point out on Twitter.

Inventing a fake game of human chess for @huntersonprime is not only dangerous foolishness & caricature, the museum wrote. It also welcomes future deniers. We honor the victims by preserving factual accuracy.

Weil wrote a long response, saying that he invented the episode to show respect to the victims of the Holocaust without borrowing from a real persons specific life or experience. He explained that the chess scene was a representationally truthful story intended to powerfully counteract the revisionist narrative that whitewashes Nazi perpetration of crimes against Jews.

Weil added that his own grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and that the show is largely dedicated to her memory and the memory of others who survived the camps. He said that he went to great lengths to avoid misrepresenting a real person or borrowing from a specific moment in an actual persons life.

That was the responsibility that weighed on me every night and every morning for years, while writing, producing, editing this show, he wrote. It is the thing I go to sleep thinking about and the thing I wake up working to honor.

Attempting to respect the victims of the Holocaust is a noble sentiment, but making up stories about them is an odd way to do it. Nearly every work of art that doesnt hew closely to the gruesome, well-documented facts of the Shoah comes off poorly. Classics such as The Boys From Brazil (1978) and Marathon Man (1976) now seem like paranoia-inflected fantasies. Inglourious Basterds is commercialized bloodlust. Even Roberto Begninis Academy Award-winning Life is Beautiful (1997), so beloved upon its release, seems naive and tone-deaf in hindsight.

The Holocaust is one of the great human tragedies in living memory. Depicting it in art will always be difficult, and for some, impossible. The unskilled had best to stick to Theodor Adornos maxim: There can be no poetry after Auschwitz.

Nicholas Rowan is a staff writer for the Washington Examiner.

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Hunters botches the Holocaust - Washington Examiner

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March 16th, 2020 at 1:46 am

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