falderal : a moving images blog
Judgment at Nuremberg ; 1961  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Director: Stanley Kramer
Actors: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift
Country: U.S.A.

All I can say about this film is WOW. Never have I watched a film where everything worked so perfectly (I lie, there is Amadeus) but my God! This film was just… breathtaking? Perfection? I can’t describe in words how I felt when I watched this film; it captivated me from the credits until the end. Each shot, each camera movement, each scene was so perfectly in place, so exact, so precise, that I can’t even say which scene was my favourite or which scene should even be cut or moved around. The whole film as a whole just worked perfectly together like a Beethoven symphony: if one part is missing or if one part messes up, the whole thing is gone. Every actor was amazing in their roles and each character represented different facets of the situation that I can’t even pick out which character I thought was the most important. Sometimes all-star casts are a letdown, but this film was the completely opposite of one.

One scene that particularly caught my eye though was the sound and editing when there is a transition from Rolfe (Maximilian Schell) speaking German to Rolfe speaking English. The editing was something that I’ve never seen before. It first started with seeing the back of the translator’s heads in the foreground and Rolfe in the background speaking German and then the camera slowly moves up at an angle, looking over the glass that separates the translators and then there is a fast zoom and the transition from German to English is made. One knows that Rolfe is still speaking German, but it is as if that slow move away from the translators and going over the glass is putting the audience into the same plane as the Germans and being able to understand what he is saying. The language barrier is broken and that quick zoom brings us to the location of the setting as if we’re part of the scene. The transition was seamless and perfectly executed, thus I had to point out that scene.
I read that the role of Ernst Janning, played by Burt Lancaster, was for Laurence Olivier. I adore Olivier, but for some reason, I can’t see anyone else playing Janning the way Lancaster did; he played the role to perfection. It’s funny because my Italian cinema professor said that Lancaster is known for being in Westerns, and the only film I saw him in was Il gattopardo (The Leopard), and the role he played was originally for Olivier as well. Once again, I thought that Lancaster was superb in Il gattopardo, just like I felt when I watched Judgment at Nuremberg. I wonder if the name “Ernst Janning” was a nod to the famous German director Ernst Lubitsch and the famous Swiss/German actor Emil Jannings. I know that Janning and Jannings are different, but nonetheless it could be a reference like in Double Indemnity with “Dietrichson” being a nod to Marlene Dietrich.

I am still in a moment of awe with this film. Maybe when I rewatch it, I’ll be able to write something better and make thorough analyses , but right now, I’m going to sleep, thinking about what a great film this is.

PS: On a less serious note, I was happy to see Marlene Dietrich with real eyebrows! I adore Dietrich, but I hated her drawn-on super-arched eyebrows during her early Hollywood years.

IMDb link: Judgment at Nuremberg
Where to buy: Amazon.com

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