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East of War

"East of War" is a talking-heads documentary in which soldiers from World War II, visiting an exhibition in Vienna devoted to "War of Extermination," are interviewed about the role they played in the conflict. The simple approach is quite effective, though the film, because of its length and its specialized appeal, is likely to find minimal distribution. The exhibition in question dealt specifically with atrocities committed by the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front, and seems to have sparked considerable interest in the Viennese capital. Beckermann quizzes the old-timers about the war years, and most of them talk quite freely, sometimes interrupting one another and entering into spirited arguments. They vividly describe incidents in which they were involved that might be seen as exceeding the bounds of "normal" warfare --- the shooting of Russian prisoners, the rape of women, the slaughter of Jews.

Some veterans justify the events as occurring in the heat of battle, while others regret the past. The filmmaking style is deliberately simple, without the use of music or any material other than the former soldiers themselves. On a technical level, pic is adequate.

East of War

Austrian

Production: A Josef Aichholzer Filmproduktion production. Produced by Josef Aichholzer. Directed by Ruth Beckermann.

Crew: Camera (color), Peter Roehsler; editor, Gertraud Luschutzky. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 19, 1997. Running time: 117 MIN.

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