The Specialist – 1999

When Adolph Eichmann was brought to trial in Israel in 1961, the event was broadcast live under the direction of documentarian Leo Hurwitz. That footage, over 500 hours of it, has been locked away in the decades since. Eyal Sivan, inspired by Hannah Arendt’s book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, received permission to dig through the footage for a concentrated portrait of the trial and the man. The balding, middle-aged Eichmann looks as scary as an accountant as he snaps to attention for every question, answering with a “Yawohl” before reading from records or repeating his mantra: “I had to obey… I was a soldier.” Painting himself as nothing but a bureaucrat with a ruthless efficiency (“I does not mean Eichmann,” he claims, trying to distance himself from the odious orders he signed), the only emotion he exhibits is a terrifying pride in his meticulous service: “I was never reprimanded,” he offers by way of explanation. Though Sivan compiled this film from documentary recordings, he finds some haunting images: the reflection of newel footage on the glass cage that protects Eichmann as he blankly watches the record of atrocities, the concentration camp tattoo on the arm that reaches into frame to play evidence from a tape recorder, the bland, emotionless face of Eichmann that dominates the film. Far from an “objective” record of the event, The Specialist indeed captures the “banality of evil” in Eichmann, and that’s genuinely frightening.

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