Director: Sergei Loznitsa

Country: Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands

Year: 2022

Duration: 112 min

Languages: English, German / subtitled in English

Category: , , ,

The horrors of World War II included extensive aerial bombardment. Almost all countries got their share of it, but major German cities in particular were systematically razed at the end of the war. This was formally justified by the need to destroy the war industry, but there was also a thinly veiled motive to take revenge on the German people. The firestorms claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. Today, terror bombings are generally regarded as unnecessary and even a war crime.

Loznitsa’s impressive compilation makes no excuses, but shows the bombings from the air and from the ground; from the perspective of the bombers, victims, rescuers and others besides. The film also contains speeches and explanations of decision-makers and soldiers. Instead of the prosaic historical narrative, the focus is on the essence of destruction and terror against civilians. Needless to say, this topic has not lost its relevance.

In his essay collection On the Natural History of Destruction (which sparked the idea for this film), W. G. Sebald reasoned that only a text sticking to cold facts could capture the horror of bombings. Similar conclusions can also be drawn regarding live images. We see how a bomber going on a mission loads not only the bomb bay and the machine guns, but also a film camera. The night shots taken by these cameras for purely technical military use form the most memorable aspect of Loznitsa’s film.

Lauri Piispa