First Run Features // 2006 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // April 3rd, 2008
What did you do in the war, dad?
In 1995 an exhibit opened in Hamburg, Germany. This exhibit shed light on the various activities of the Wehrmacht, the German army during World War II. For years, the Wehrmacht has been viewed as soldiers fighting for their country with little or no participation with the activities of the S.S. or the Gestapo. However, the Wehrmacht Exhibition showed that the Wehrmacht had a great deal to do with the extermination of the Jews.
The Unknown Soldier, however, is not just about the crimes of the past, but about the reactions of the future. The exhibit opened to protests by the German radical right, people protesting the besmirching of the good name of the common German soldier. There are numerous testimonies by both sides: men and women defending the honor of their fathers and grandfathers, and historians trying to prove to the public what happened sixty years ago on the Eastern Front.
The filmmakers go out of their way to show that they tried to get more information from the protestors, but they are blocked numerous times by people saying that there will be no interviews, that they should speak only to specific people.
The Unknown Soldier lets everyone talk that can, though, from survivors of the atrocities to families of the soldiers to a surviving Wehrmacht soldier.
The narrative is perhaps more jumbled than I would like. There's no really clear thread leading from point A to point B. This could be a larger problem if director Michael Verhoeven were taking a stance, like say, if he were more a Michael Moore. But since his documentary is more about multiple stances and the multiple views of history as it is about the actual crimes of the Wehrmacht, The Unknown Soldier does not really suffer from its wandering tale.
The extras on the disc are pretty underwhelming. There are a few photographs that were used in the exhibition as well as biography of the director, but nothing beyond that, which is disappointing to say the least.
The Unknown Soldier continues to open the doors that the Wehrmacht Exhibition did. It examines the reactions of the people hit hardest by the war, both the families of the soldiers involved and the victims themselves. Through nearly unbiased eyes, The Unknown Soldier helps to keep a focus on the crimes of the past. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Archival Photo Gallery
* Director Bio