Having already seen one four-hour-plus Marcel Ophuls documentary courtesy of the list, I was none too pleased to have to sit through another. That, and both documentaries are ultimately about the same subject, Nazis and their lasting influence, which makes Hotel Terminus and The Sorrow and the Pity not only somewhat redundant entries against each other, but also a bit of an affront to the concept of economical filmmaking. That the film is split into two parts made it none the easier to digest, and that the film is also entirely in black and white means that anybody who has so much as seen any film made from 1960 onward (including the black and white ones) will find The Sorrow and the Pity unbearably out of date.
The film details in two sections how the French Vichy government aided and collaborated with the Nazi regime during WWII and the German occupation of France. The first part, The Collapse, deals with the collaboration itself, centered around Pierre Mendes-France, a later Prime Minister of France, and how he escaped captivity to join the Free French forces based in England. The second part, The Choice, is an expose of the life of a man named Christian de la Maziere, who was one of the Frenchmen who joined the German forces against the Allies. Most of this plot summary comes courtesy of Wikipedia, since while I was watching the film, I found my concentration lapsing every other minute or so, which for a four-hour marathon was a hell of a lot, so I can’t really give you a rundown of the film bit by bit, and honestly, I couldn’t care less that I can’t. This entirely black-and-white documentary was a gigantic snore, though there were a few times that I was able to ascertain that it was, at the very least, a pretty well done snore, but a snore nonetheless. Sure, the points raised by the documentary are interesting, and may even be enlightening to some, but for me, I knew and could ascertain for myself virtually everything this documentary had to offer without even having to watch it. That, for me, meant that actually watching a four hour documentary about things I already knew was probably the closest thing to torture I could come up with since Jeanne Dielman.
It’s a documentary, in black and white, that’s over four hours long, about WWII, and it looks it, feels it, and very much embodies everything about it. Does that sound entertaining to you? I’ll answer that question for you; no. No it doesn’t. Whatever preconceptions you have about The Sorrow and the Pity going into it after reading this review are sadly, woefully correct, and if you do still decide to see this one, you deserve a badge of honor. Hell, I’ll be checking my mailbox for the next few days, wondering where the heck mine is and when it’s coming. Once again, I am mystified by the reaction of reviewers across the net, proclaiming this an utter masterpiece worth its weight in gold. Well, no, I’m not; I’ve already reasoned my own adage to explain why films that are ridiculously long just automatically get heaps of praise from the film community: it’s pretty much because people think that when a film has more and more and even more of something, it must be good to warrant it. I can cite numerous films that would disprove that assumption, and The Sorrow and the Pity is just the newest one to add to that list.
Arbitrary Rating: 5/10