Weapons of the Spirit | Chicago Reader

Weapons of the Spirit

Pierre Sauvage's fascinating 1987 personal documentary looks at the French town of Le Chambon, only 20 miles from Vichy, whose inhabitants, most of them devout Protestants, managed to shelter 5,000 Jews during the Nazi occupation. Whatever one's misgivings about the ultraconventional form of this documentary and the excessive use of music—which tends to register as so much lily gilding—the film's story is so remarkable and inspiring that it still has the force of a revelation. Sauvage is a Jew born in Le Chambon in 1944, and as he interviews the survivors of that era, their simple and unpretentious goodness, which somehow managed to “subvert” even certain Vichy officials, forces us to revise somewhat the conclusions reached in Shoah, The Sorrow and the Pity, and Hotel Terminus. A healthy and bracing alternative to the ethnocentrism that informs so much Holocaust commentary, the film restores one's faith in humanity. 90 min.

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