The Decent One attempts to expose a previously unseen perspective on an often-approached subject. The film juxtaposes personal writings and photographs from the private lives of one of the highest-ranking Nazis and his family with the reality of the time, which Himmler himself relentlessly shaped in the background. The audience is thus granted personal access to the mind of the private man Heinrich Himmler and to the experiences, ideas, and emotions that turned him into the merciless “architect of the Holocaust”. Since the film is told from the point of view of Himmler and his family – first his parents and brothers, later his wife, daughter and lover – the audience experience the world during WWI and in the Weimar Republic from an average German middle class perspective, and later on from the privileged vantage point of a high ranking Nazi family. In this film, Himmler’s subjective perceptions of the outside world and his personal involvement with political and societal developments are what drives and shapes the viewer’s cinematic experience and reveals how cruelty and evil can grow out of apparent normalcy. The audience is left with the discomfort of struggling in between the two poles of emotional closeness to the characters’ very personal writings and the appalling deeds committed on their orders.
With a dramatic script based on carefully selected pieces exclusively from original documents written down by Heinrich Himmler, his parents, his wife, his daughter, his mistress and his subordinates in the SS brought to life by using actors’ off voices and archival footage, The Decent One mixes documentary and fiction conventions to create a new post-documentary form. This allows the viewer to “think with” and “feel with” the film instead of simply consuming it. It strives to uncover the deepest psycho-cultural reality of the most atrocious cruelty. The fiction is as real as the horror it constructively comes to document.
We witness how cruelty can grow from an apparent normality, and when fueled by ideology, economical reality, a Fuehrer, a whole people and a state of the art technology, an individual who lacks self-confidence can become a hero in his own eyes and one of the biggest mass murderers in History.
At the core of this film there is an appeal for a cinema of insistent questioning instead of rapid foreclosure, clarifying distance in place of violating closeness, provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus. Although there is no apparent guide of taking sides and making judgment, it projects a moral frame of reference urgent to our day and age: a multidimensional critical perspective as the audience’s guide for empathy and individual responsibility.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Born and raised in Belgium, Vanessa Lapa has been living in Israel since 1995. An accomplished journalist, she produced and directed over a hundred factual reportages for Israeli television. Her documentary film “OLMERT – CONCEALED DOCUMENTARY” (Israel, 2009) was hailed as a unique cinéma vérite achievement, revealing the behind-the-scenes of the government and the private life of Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Vanessa was also on the Israeli side of the production and content for the 52-minute documentary “Straddling the Fence” (USA, 2003) directed by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, which aired worldwide. In 2007, she founded the Tel Aviv-based independent documentary film production company Realworks Ltd.