Has "Hunters," the Holocaust revenge fantasy, made a change of heart? -J (2023)

"Hunter"the second seasonopened in Austria and even before it featured a pair of severed eyeballs attached to a butter sculpture as a Yiddish version of Kelis' milkshake tunes, the show turned my stomach.

The story, which in its farewell season follows the same multi-ethnic group of Nazi assassins hunting Hitler, begins with a familiar setup. A woman dressed in white with a vaguely European accent walks into a candy store in the fictional alpine town of Van Grooten during a butter sculpting contest. She's 1972, but she takes a script from the 1940s and questions the owner, first about her shop and finally about her ethnicity. She has seen the faded outline of a distant mezuzah in the doorway. The owner denies being Jewish, but she doesn't buy it.

"Before the war, 1,000 Jews lived in this city," says the woman. “They were deported on July 22, 1942. But they just disappeared... Maybe they put up a cross, took away their mezuzah and became Christians. But they cannot be Christians. A rat cannot be a lion.

I began drafting an email to the USC Shoah Foundation requesting their comment. I couldn't believe this show, that's all.Auschwitz Memorial Museum explodedfor inventing a bloody game of "human chess" on the pitch, his second season would begin by claiming that 1,000 Austrian Jews escaped the Holocaust by pretending to be Christians. It was exactly the kind of revisionism that rankled critics of the show. Worse still, it was fuel for deniers and minimizers.

And then the script changed to reveal the true fate of the town's Jews, the store's original owners, and (spoilers) the owners' spy geniuses. You should have seen the twist coming, or at least recognized the actor playing the woman in white (Jewish star Jennifer Jason Leigh, a highlight as always). But then he was prepared for the worst. My expectations were low, but the show seemed to anticipate a critic like me and morphed into a commentary on the politics of the Holocaust revenge plot and what creator David Weil called it.a letterDefense of his work at the Auschwitz Museum, "symbolic reality".

The new "hunters"it's a completely different undertaking than the first sophomore and tonally queasy entry.Weil seems to have listened to the institutional complaints, shifted gears and steered clear of the shock value of the Shoah, even as his comments to the press belie the growth he has achieved.

second season promobecause he called"A show about catharsis, about Jewish empowerment, and about fulfilling the wishes of Jewish kids like me who grew up wanting to take back power." Weil describes an impetus that Daniel H. Magilow, coauthor of "Holocaust Representations in History: An Introduction”.identifiedin revenge movies like "Inglorious Bastards"as "an effort to break free of the constraints that the cinematic portrayal of Holocaust victimhood has placed on Jewish identity."

This subversive vision fits the genre aesthetic of Season 1, which featured fake trailers and tourist ads to relocate the Nazis who broke the Fourth Wall to put it in the heart of America.fucking shitreally happened (althoughin a completely different way).

The show's pilot opens with nerdy teens debating the psychology of Darth Vader, then concocts a Spider-Man-esque origin story for the protagonist, comic book store clerk Jonah (Logan Lerman), killing his surrogate father and placing him on a path of complicated moral dilemmas. While the hyper-violent, anachronistic needle-drops at the start of season two suggest more of the same, the show has actually moved on from that childish stuff almost entirely. Jonas is a man - with a beard,fiancee and dark secrets to prove it.

The only true remnant of a B-movie that remains is the career of catcher and morning idol Lonny Flash (Josh Radnor), who is (more or less) an Oscar nominee for a movie in which he plays a Jewish hitman, that he must kill eight men before Shabbat. . Even the torn...boys from brazilThe Hitler clones promised to us in 2020 seem to be going elsewhere, perhaps to a boarding school or new homes with civil servant fathers and doting mothers.

And then there is the nature of the murders. While this opening is particularly brutal, Hunters often stab and shoot rather than visit.Karmictorment their prey as they have in the past. More importantly, they no longer track high-ranking Nazis living in the US under aliases.

Scattered around the world and then reunited, they now seek the ultimate prize, theThe Führer himself, leading a quiet life on a farm in South America while Eva Braun plans to build a Fourth Reich. Yes here "Hunter"the series began, not with his infamous game of human chess or the gassing of an elderly ex-Nazi chemist, I suspect most of the outrage would be silenced or soon forgotten. The hunt for Hitler has a long history.

What makes "Hunter" different?

And "Inglorious Bastardsstormed theaters and blew up Hitler and his ministers in a flurry of bullets and burning celluloid,jeffrey goldberg saidit was a film that "no Jewish director could have made."

"It's hard to imagine a Jew in Hollywood, each one more confident than the other, portraying Jews as vengeful knife-wielders," Goldberg wrote.the atlantic.

As Magilov observed, there has long been a taboo around depictions of Jews seeking violent revenge or, more importantly, being reduced to the level of Nazis in exacting it. The concern is rooted in concerns about Holocaust denial and reversal, historical accuracy and, according to Magilow, a political demand to maintain "an aura of uniqueness" around the Shoah.

"Bastards"he had no such neuroses, which may be why some found his ethics so "anti-Jewish". But more than a decade later, he's not very controversial. Neither do the little DIY Nazi revenge thrillers, including "Uses', starring Christopher Plummer as the oldest survivor, and 'This must be the place"with Sean Penn as a crazy rock star who follows in the footsteps of his father's torturer at Auschwitz. Certainly none has sparked as much outrage as "Hunter," written by Stephen D. Smith of theThe USC Shoah Foundation calledThe most egregious distortion of the Holocaust story in my life."

The difference in reception seems to have several factors. Unlike many antihistorical works like "Inglorious Bastards "Hunter"he went further in his revisionism by filming scenes set in Nazi killing centers and fabricating a sensational atrocity. The dragged-out Auschwitz flashbacks in the first season escalated to the level of a puzzling encampment. (Recently FX's "The patientused similar images but was smart enough not to have itinterrupt a dance sequencea Stayin' Alive en el Luna Park de Coney Island.)

There is also the context. The Bastards, as the Bielski brothers in "Trotz,"they are in a war where killing is a matter of survival. The self-proclaimed avengers from movies like "This must be the place"or even Magneto in oneiconic scenein "X Men First generation,"act on your own. In "The blame,"The plan is to try a live Nazi and "end of operationBased on the actual kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann by the Mossad, that's exactly what the agents are doing.

Perhaps closer to the influences of Weil, the 1970s Nazi conspiracy thriller"The Odessa File"dodge moral conundrums with a protagonist who isn't explicitly Jewish (Jon Voight certainly plays him). "Marathonmann“,as Magilow points out, he altered his revenge ending, where Dustin Hoffman's character would have killed the sadistic dentist who had tortured him. The reason for the change was Hoffman's insistence that he "not become a Nazi to kill a Nazi."

"Hunters," playing Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino), was more gritty. He dared to suggest that decades after the war, a wealthy and respected director of a Jewish foundation organized extrajudicial killings and misrepresented the legal method used by the realjewish nazi huntershe brought his targets to justice. But that criticism is only part of the story in a show that controversially mixes fact and fiction, and real and fictional characters.

In the first season of "Hunters"Judd Hirsch as Simon Wiesenthal briefly offers an alternative to Offerman's crusade, questioning the Jewish nature of cold-blooded Nazi murders. "If we go their way and compromise our morals," Wiesenthal tells him, "then we Jews will exterminate ourselves."

But Wiesenthal's perspective is definitely not that of the exhibition, especially when compared to other works that refer to him.

While it has a lot going for it in looks, it feels and shares its premise with "Boys from Brazil", "Hunters"provides a counterpoint to the largely unflinching, if skeptical, anti-revenge message of this film and book, embodied by Ezra Lieberman's Wiesenthal-inspired character. In the film, Laurence Oliviers Lieberman dismisses a Jewish Defense League-inspired organization as "radicals" for wanting to kill Nazis; in "Hunter"the radicals are our protagonists, although they never get to contemplate the death of Hitler's child clones.

„‘Hunterdare not solve the moral dilemmas that "The boys from Brazil,'' wrote Marat Grinberg, a professor at Reed College, in an essay on the television portrayal of the Holocaust. “Instead, it offers the righteousness and legitimacy of Jewish militancy in the fight against evil. It is not revenge that becomes the supreme value, but the Jewish birthright obligation to defend oneself.”

In the second season of "Hunters"The question of what the Jewish defense should look like is being explored further. Meyer Offerman, whose revenge message is nicknamed a "mitzvah," is dead. Jonah exposed him as a notorious Nazi and questioned his opening tactics. The scattered members of Jonah's team must decide if their ideas will die with him.

"Justice, justice you will pursue" (but how?)

because said in oneInterview with Screen Rantthat this new season is primarily about who is best equipped to seek justice for those who have been wronged.

“Are our institutions the ones that have many flaws? Or is it really possible for the right people to take justice and matters into their own hands?

Ultimately, without giving too much away, the show ends up on the side of due process (when and if you can get it). For all fears of portraying Nazi hunters as sadistically inclined vigilantes, the judiciary is the best way. Hirsch as Wiesenthal returns as an antagonist in flashbacks and has much more to say.

When Offerman dismisses Wiesenthal's reliance on "the slow grinding of the gears of justice," Wiesenthal retorted in a flagrant exchange that "when a people are regarded as rats and cockroaches...we cannot afford to meddle in sewers". ."

Certainly this criticism is not limited to the actual persecution by the Nazis, which continues to this day.

It's worth remembering that season two has Lonny Flash starring in a movie about an orthodox hitman (and I think, if the timing is right, Dustin Hoffman for best actor in "Kramer contra Kramer"). The fact that Weil was compelled to defend his show against the censorship of Jewish institutions connects Wiesenthal's words about "intruding into the sewers" with the question of acceptable representation. Do we always have to be honest and live up to an external perception? Or can we distort the facts to make ourselves look more like victims and less than completely innocent people without any anger?

While the dialogue isn't always brilliant (at one point, Jonah Hillel paraphrases - "if not me, then who" - to justify his murders), this debate achieves a kind of clarity amid the noise and spectacle.

Discourses about Holocaust denial, ethical justice and historical memory consume screen minutes and sound suspicious after comments and press releases denouncing the series' previous failures. There's even a tense exchange reminiscent of one in the movie."Skokie' about whether Jewish values ​​can be realized in defense of a Nazi.

I don't expect this final season to win over the initial critics, though it seems to try hard to please. (After all, he still dispatches older Nazis with a high level of impunity.) I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised when it grew beyond the fluffy tropes and silly jokes that made the first season so dissonant. Weil is much more cautious in this second and final game.

Even in The Home, the show's most experimental episode and the only one Weil directed himself, he's careful to make sure the over-the-top cinematic language is in Jonah's perspective.

"I used to think ghosts didn't exist," Jonah says as he walks a high-ranking Nazi across the pampas. “Then I heard a story, an old story. it is going well..."

An architect and his wife living in the countryside are visited by the SS who are hunting Jews. Through a series of clever traps, the Nazis meet their gruesome end in whimsical montages reminiscent of Wes Anderson and the prologue to "Inglorious BastardsIf the episode, which mostly stands alone and mocks the previous season's penchant for breaking the fourth wall, feels out of place, it adds up when we look at the show as a whole. Perhaps what we are shown - the contrived sadistic games, the nods to the genre, the enucleation of the butter sculpture - comes from a perspective that is far from reliable, even as it struggles for emotional truth.

Jonah, the grandson of a survivor who grew up watching comic books and exploitation movies, tells us a story. Weil, grandson of another survivor and with the same influences, does the same with Hunters.and we don't have to accept it as a true story.

Has "Hunters," the Holocaust revenge fantasy, made a change of heart? -J (1)

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