Expertise, Criticism and Holocaust Memory in Cinema

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Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy


Communication Studies


This essay offers a critical examination of two recent Holocaust films that exemplify contrasting approaches to Holocaust representation: Peter Forgacs’s 1997 The maelstrom: A family chronicle and Quentin tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious basterds. One film is historical; the other translates history to figurative exaggeration. The essay explores how The maelstrom positions viewers within the constructed subjunctive spaces of the film, while Inglourious basterds positions viewers as spectators of history as comic book. Looking at these films together illuminates competing rhetorical claims to expertise in film production and reception, and, in the context of Holocaust memory, the levels of expertise required of viewing audiences. Moreover, the analysis reveals that rhetorical aporia no longer dominates inventional possibilities for cinematic memory construction of the Holocaust.