Persistence | Chicago Reader

Persistence

Daniel Eisenberg's ever-shifting meditation on the Holocaust (1997) combines contemporary footage of Germany, archival shots of the Third Reich in ruins, and scenes from Roberto Rossellini's Germany, Year Zero (1946). If Persistence seems less than a complete success, it's because Eisenberg refuses to assign guilt or even to completely separate the present from the past: a diary from his 1991-'92 visit to Berlin might provide voice-over for 1945 footage while 1945 diaries accompany recent footage. Eisenberg argues that a linear view of historical time is “outmoded”; instead his film connects various periods from the German past. The “ruins” the narrator tells us Frederick the Great constructed for his pleasure are contrasted with the paintings of 19th-century romantic Caspar David Friedrich, who celebrated Germany's crumbling castles, and with the ruined Germany of 1945. Eisenberg implies that Germany's culture led to its devastation, yet his footage of Germany today is oddly devoid of much activity or life; while he doesn't condemn today's Germans, the film reveals a fascination with a demolished Germany that begins to feel like a secret wish. A child of survivors—his mother was in Auschwitz—he can perhaps be forgiven for not achieving an objective “balance.” 86 min.

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