The Life and Times of Klaus Barbi
Directed by Marcel Ophüls
1988, MGM/United Artists
This brilliantly constructed documentary presents the story of Klaus Barbie—head of the Gestapo in Lyon, France, during the Nazi occupation—by amassing interviews with those who came into contact with the notorious war criminal. The many interviewees speak at length (accounting for the documentary’s total running time of more than four hours), and an image of Barbie as both a real person and a symbol of evil slowly emerges. Those who knew him as a student profess to be puzzled over his later reputation, but a woman who served in the French resistance and was beaten nearly to death by Barbie solemnly recounts the hideous tortures he inflicted on her. Filmmaker Marcel Ophüls (The Sorrow and the Pity) spoke to a number of resistance veterans, aging Nazis, and even retired American intelligence agents who employed Barbie to spy on Communists following the end of World War II. When Ophüls conducted interviews in the mid-1980s, Barbie was an old man languishing in a French jail after decades of living comfortably in South America. Memories of him, and all the pain he inflicted, were still vivid. As the many interview subjects speak (some slam doors and even punch at the camera), their own characters and motivations are revealed, and the truly unsettling character of Klaus Barbie is exposed. —Robert J. McNamara
THIS TITLE IS AVAILABLE IN VHS.