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Friday, May 9, 2008
Survivor Madness: The Memory Thief
"I have a hard time remembering my own past, so I remember the pasts of others," says Lukas (Mark Webber), a 20-ish toll collector explaining his increasingly pathological identification with the sufferings of Holocaust victims. From the moment he meets a Survivor passing by his booth, he becomes obsessed and it's not long before he's poring over endless videotaped testimonials, papering his wall with newspaper clippings and having a concentration camp number tattooed on his arm—all to fill up the banality of a completely ordinary life. In The Memory Thief, first time director Gil Kofman is concerned not so much with the events of the Holocaust itself, but their availability to anyone interested in co-opting the suffering of others for whatever psychological gain they can extract. But, if Kofman uses Lukas' obsessive identification to raise provocative questions about the responsibility of the ordinary citizen for the world's sufferings—as well as that of the filmmaker/videographer to document those sufferings—he quickly loses sight of his thematic concerns and the film soon gives way to a rather rote depiction of the onset of madness.