I have just finished watching the TV series Holocaust. This is widely regarded as a classic, and has won several awards. But to me it was just another typical family drama, albeit set against an untypical historical background. The historical circumstances is, of course, the main "attraction" here, but, disappointingly, they are too often unconvincingly depicted.
The quality of the acting is, given the line-up of famous actors, surprisingly poor (with Michael Moriarty as the cold and creepy Erik Dorff as an honourable exception). Lack of visual despair sometimes makes it look as though the harassment never really bother the Jews. The dialogues are sometimes very awkward. From time to time the characters say things in the interest of the audience; they explain things that must be obvious to anyone in their vicinity, but which the uninformed TV viewer may not be aware of. Worse still is the apparent lack of interest for accuracy. The concentration camps seem wholly unreal. While Primo Levi's inmates are reduced to bundles of primal instincts, the Jews in this version of Auschwitz discuss their terrible lot with sometimes pompous phrases. Everything looks too clean and too healthy too. When seeing well nourished prisoners in pristine looking outfits slaving day in and out under backbreaking labour without a single drop of sweat on their faces, the only thing that kept me from laughing was the sheer injustice of it. Throughout the nine hours I was neither moved nor shocked once, except for when historical footage appeared on screen. The brutality simply was not brutal enough and the suffering not nearly deep enough.
The makers of Holocaust seem to me to have been either too ambitious, in wanting to show all sides and sites of the Holocaust, or not quite ambitious enough, in wanting to do so using only a limited number of characters. As in my childhood's favourite TV series, Once Upon a Time...Man, where the history of mankind is illustrated from the point of view of a group that is always composed of similar recurring figures, the handful of characters in Holocaust simply turn up at too many significant points in history for the story to be credible.