Of the countless documentaries about the Nazi Holocaust of World War II, Inheritance
is surely one of the most deeply personal and emotionally resonant. Oscar-winning documentarian James Moll (The Last Days
) collaborated on several Holocaust history projects with Steven Spielberg (including ongoing work with Spielberg's Shoah Foundation), and as he was preparing the documentary "Voices of the List" for the Collector's Edition DVD of Schindler's List
, he became aware of Monika Hertwig, a soft-spoken German woman, born in 1945, who had learned as a teenager that her late father was Amon Goeth, the monstrously homicidal commandant of the Nazis' Plaszow concentration camp in Poland, memorably portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Spielberg's Oscar-winning 1993 film. Hertwig had never confronted the awful truth of her father's history until she saw Schindler's List
, and Inheritance
focuses its intensely human drama on Hertwig's eventual meeting with Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig, a former maidservant to Goeth and one of the Holocaust survivors whose testimony is included in "Voices of the List."
Linked by a horrible legacy of pain and suffering, these two extraordinarily compassionate women agreed to meet on the grounds of Plaszow (which includes Goeth's former villa, where Helen lived under conditions of slavery), 60 years after Goeth's post-war execution. Their encounter was captured by Moll on high-definition video, and the slickly produced Inheritance follows their brief journey together as they confront the truth about Goeth's murderous legacy. The result is a film that offers considerable healing power for all Holocaust survivors, but it's almost uncomfortably intimate as Moll's cameras eavesdrop on these admirable women and their very personal quest for closure. This is an extraordinary film that deserves the widest possible audience, but it also feels occasionally intrusive, and the music score (by Argentine composers Andras Goldstein and Daniel Tarrab) is unnecessarily lush and manipulative. Those minor caveats aside, Inheritance provides a spiritually satisfying and deeply emotional experience, even as it raises darker questions about the source of Amon Goeth's evil, the mysterious passivity of his wife Ruth (Monika's mother), and the deep psychological scars of the Holocaust, which continues to haunt survivors, perpetrators and their families well into the 21st century. --Jeff Shannon
[And] it is that raw, unfiltered, uneasy, uncomfortable intimacy that makes this, as one audience member later remarked, much more than just another Holocaust movie. Here, in these women's tears and twisted smiles, in their attempt to make sense of events beyond comprehension are the living wounds of history -- terminal and undeniable. --The Los Angeles Times