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Film / The Last Days

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The Last Days is a 1998 film directed by James Moll.

It is a documentary about The Holocaust, and specifically the Holocaust in Hungary. For most of World War II Hungary was a nation allied to Germany but still independent, and as a consequence Germany did not occupy Hungary until the spring of 1944. As a result the over 800,000 Jews of Hungary, who until that point had been mostly safe, suddenly found themselves in the grip of the Nazis. The Nazis then proceeded to do their utmost to exterminate Hungarian Jewry, working at breakneck speed even as the war was rapidly turning against them, eventually murdering better than half of the Jews of Hungary.

The film interviews seven Hungarian Jews, who recount their experiences as the Nazis descended on them with terrifying speed. All lost most or all of their families. Five of the six return to Europe and visit their old homes, as well as the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau.

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Tropes:

  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Discussed Trope, as a woman observes how "you were almost blinded" when the cattle cars taking people to Auschwitz were opened after a four-day journey.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The German invasion and occupation of Hungary, March 19, 1944. The interviewees note how people they thought were their friends turned on them on a dime.
  • Documentary: Of the Holocaust in Hungary and how some 430,000 Jews were murdered in barely a year.
  • Final Solution: Even as their empire was crumbling around them, the Germans devoted time and resources to the extermination of Hungarian Jews.
  • Gorn: Very, very disturbing stills and stock footage of both the dead and the "living skeleton" surviving prisoners of concentration camps.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: Alice Lok and her family visit the mass grave where her sister Edith is buried, along with all the other Dachau victims who, badly weakened and ill, continued to die even after the American liberation.
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  • The Ken Burns Effect: Used from time to time, like a pan up the chimney of an Auschwitz crematorium.
  • The Last Title: The Last Days, referring to the Holocaust in Hungary essentially being the last phase of the genocide, coming in the last year of the war after Hitler had largely wiped out most of the other Jews of Eastern Europe.
  • Match Cut: There are several cuts that go from World War II-era footage or photos of a particular location, to live-action 1998 footage of the same location.
  • Stock Footage: Quite a bit, including footage of Hitler and the Nazis, footage of pre-war life in Hungary, and terrifying footage from the camps.
  • Talking Heads: The seven Jewish survivors, as well as an SS doctor who was acquitted of war crimes and a couple of the soldiers that liberated Dachau.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Quite literally. Irene Zisblatt visits her old village and notes how the people there, while being friendly and polite, still ask if she plans to reclaim her property. Renee Firestone visits her old home and sees that it's been poorly maintained and is overgrown. She breaks down in tears and wishes that she hadn't come.
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