Parents' Guide to

Final Account

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Powerful docu reveals impact of Nazi complicity.

Movie PG-13 2021 94 minutes
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Holland's powerful collection of stories from those who served in the lower ranks of the Nazi party is what's been missing from the conversation about Adolph Hitler's reign of terror. Recording the testimony and memories of those who witnessed and participated in the atrocities Hitler unleashed against Jewish people and others is of vital importance. But this isn't a brash, chain-rattling film. Rather, it's a quiet look at the dangers of being complicit. The late director (Holland died three months after completing the film) is an information gatherer, intent and patient as he asks questions off camera. His subjects share what they did and what they knew; with one notable exception, they've seemingly absolved themselves of real responsibility. After all, they suggest, what could they do? While the answers ramp up, Holland softly brings the questioning around to make his interviewees confront themselves. Maybe they were just an accounting clerk, maybe they were just following orders, maybe they were put in a completely unfair situation -- but maybe they allowed themselves to be put there. And maybe, then, they're not so innocent.

Everything in Final Account is a tacit revelation, and the way that the Third Reich purposely institutionalized racism and hatred of the Jewish population is repulsively relevant. The words "perpetrators aren't born, they're made" appear on the screen, and viewers may find themselves feeling inklings of compassion for the elderly interviewees who describe how, as children, they were indoctrinated through books, films, teachers, and fun summer programs. Holland, whose Jewish grandparents were murdered at a concentration camp, is immensely restrained, especially considering that he was dying of cancer through most of the filmmaking. As he creates a living document of people who lacked the courage to stand up to evil by deciding it was out of their control, Holland himself is a portrait of courage, perseverance, and self-control.

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