Filmed over five weeks at the Austrian concentration camp, Mauthausen, documentarian Rex Bloomstein follows tour guides and tourists around the site as visitors discover the drip drip accumulation of the dehumanisation process.
As the guides move from room to room explaining how when the prisoners arrived they would be stripped and shaved all over, then detail the impossibly meagre diet, the very limited sanitary conditions and, finally, the bodies crammed into the showers that doubled up as gas chambers, Kz works its way into our inner consciousness. As someone says about the instruments and devices used in the death camp, just accepting the presence of these things is ‘an attack on the mind’. One of the guides admits just how much the camp has altered his life. Since taking on the job eight years ago he’s become an alcoholic, argues with his wife constantly and takes anti-depressants.
A voiceover during the credits states: ‘There is no need to grasp the full extent of the tragedy that took place here. There is a safety device inside you that will protect you. Otherwise there might be the danger that one would lose one’s mind.’ This might sound very melodramatic and suggest the big statement, but the film goes out of its way to focus on the small-scale and immediate, no matter if, for the tour guides at least, the safety device isn’t quite working.