THE PORTRAITIST (Ireneusz Dobrowolski, Poland). 52 minutes. Subtitled. Saturday (May 10), 7 pm. Rating: NNN
Wilhelm Brasse, a Polish prisoner, took photographs for the SS at Auschwitz. He intended to return to his job in a portrait studio after the war but was haunted by images like those he was forced to shoot of victims of Mengele’s experiments, and never took another photograph.
Director Ireneusz Dobrowolski mixes the recollections of the now elderly survivor with a gallery of mug shots and SS portraits and wartime film footage of ghettos and concentration camps.Any Holocaust testimony has an impact, but this film could have delved deeper into the question of why the Nazis made photographs and other documentation of people they considered expendable. Were they proud of their savage efficiency, or using photography to normalize their actions?