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The Last Days Review

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The survivors to relate their own stories from the fall of Hungary under Nazi Occupation. As well as the talking-head narrative, we're faced with the juxtaposition of freshly found harrowing footage of bodies and skeletons with the return of the people to their villages and thier search for the dead in the camps.

★★★★

Produced under the umbrella of Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, Moll's sensitive, neatly structured, powerful documentary takes a microcosm of Holocaust atrocities - the plight of five Hungarian Jews in the last chapters of The Final Solution - and, by its very specificity, gives history more humanity than any elbow-patched, pointy-bearded teacher could ever muster.

Eschewing omnipotent commentary, the movie allows the survivors to relate their own stories from the fall of Hungary under Nazi Occupation. The anti-semitism from neighbours who used to be friends, life-saving fake passports, cattle car deportation leads to their horrific experiences in concentration camps - there are some stunning remembrances from the Soddenkommando, the Jews who were forced to gas and burn their own people - and their liberation and rebuilding of lives in the US.

What impresses most about The Last Days is its ability to sketch the big picture at an engrossing pace without ever losing sight of the telling moment or the moving reminiscence; the teenage Firestone fleetingly catching her father's eye as he is led off to die; Zisblatt swallowing her mother's diamonds before camp inspection then retrieving them from the flow of faeces. Occasionally, Hans Zimmer's score over-eggs things somewhat, yet it is impossible to diminish the moving testimony or the dignity of the survivors delivering it.

Away from the talking head narrative, Moll juxtaposes freshly found archive footage - including some unwatchable colour sequences of skeletal survivors and mountains of corpses - with the survivors returning not only to their old villages but also to the haunting vestiges of the concentration camps to trace the fate of their loved ones. If that smells like a documentarian's stunt, the resulting myriad of reactions and sense of how the past begets the present finds an emotional truth that transcends any overt manipulation.

The use of graphic footage results in a myriad of reactions and sense of how the past begets the present finds an emotional truth that transcends any overt manipulation.