The Last Stage

(aka The last Stop, Ostatni Etap, 1948)
   The landmark film by Wanda Jakubowska that shows the monstrosity of Auschwitz and draws on her firsthand experiences— she was imprisoned in Ravensbruck and the women's concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. With its dramatization of the camp experience, The Last Stage established several images easily discernible in later Holocaust narratives: dark, "realistic" images of the camp (the film was shot in Auschwitz-Birkenau by Russian cinematographer Borys Monastyrski), passionate moralistic appeal, and clear divisions between victims and victimizers. Jakubowska's objective, however, was not so much to portray the repelling reality of the concentration camp, but to show the female inmates' solidarity in their suffering as well as in their struggle against Fascism. She focused on carefully chosen female inmates, mostly Communists and supporters of the Communist resistance in the camp, who represented different oppressed nationalities and groups of people.
   The images of camp life in The Last Stage (for example, morning and evening roll calls on the Appellplatz, the arrival of transports, and the selections for the gas chambers) reinforced the depiction of Nazi concentration camps and are present in a number of subsequent films, including Sophie's Choice (1982), directed by Alan Pakula, and Schindler's List (1993), directed by Steven Spielberg. To this day, The Last Stage remains a foundational film about Auschwitz and the Holocaust and a prototype for future Holocaust cinematic narratives.
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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