The daughter of Amon Goeth, the commandant of the Nazi’s Plaszow concentration camp, attempts to come to terms with her legacy in “Inheritance,” made by docmaker James Moll with a curious blend of sensitivity and slickness. Moll has a long list of Holocaust-themed films to his credit, including the Oscar-winning “The Last Days,” so he brings a steady familiarity to the human drama. However, raw emotions and prettified filmmaking — including bright HD lensing and a treacly original score — make an unpleasant mix. Most intrigued aud may be Germans, but pic will also draw interest from Jewish-themed fests and cablers worldwide.
Moll came across the tale of Monika Hertwig while making “Voices From the List,” a doc programmed as a nonfiction extra on the “Schindler’s List” DVD package, and one of several projects (including the Shoah Foundation itself) on which Moll has collaborated with Steven Spielberg.
Having learned — in a bitter exchange with her mother Ruth Kalder — as a teen in the late 1950s about the extent of her father’s crimes, Hertwig says she wasn’t forced to confront the moral dimensions of the past until she saw Ralph Fiennes play Goetz in “Schindler’s List” as a homicidal maniac.
Hertwig’s reality encapsulates that of a generation of postwar Germans whose own generally liberal-to-left politics clashes with the sense that their families were involved with Nazi atrocities. She recalls, mystified, when told that her father was hanged in 1945 for killing countless numbers of Jews, how “I had never seen a Jew in my life!”
She had spotted Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig as an on-camera participant in Moll’s “Voices,” and learning that Jonas-Rosenzweig had been a maidservant in Goetz’ household, Hertwig wrote the camp survivor to arrange a meeting. After some delay, the meeting comes about, with Moll’s crew capturing the encounter at the ruins of the Plaszow camp.
The meeting proves cathartic for both women (with Jonas-Rosenzweig accompanied by daughter Vivian), and their walking tour of the Goetz home is indeed moving: One, as a German, feels guilt by association; the other possibly is haunted by survivor’s guilt.
But “Inheritance” remains more likely of value as an experience for these two women than it will to many viewers, who are kept on the outside looking in, despite Argentine composers Andres Goldstein’s and Daniel Tarrab’s excessively manipulative and strenuously romantic score. Actually more intriguing and disturbing, yet less explored here, is the strange relationship between Hertwig and her mother, and the open question of what made her mother tolerate living with such a beast.
Pic is not to be confused with Polish helmer Edward Porembny’s identically titled dark psychological 2005 drama.