The Memory of Justice focuses on the question of guilt surrounding war crimes in modern history. This weighty film takes as its starting point the Nuremberg trials in 1945 and 1946, in which central figures from the Third Reich stood trial. What is the relationship between collective guilt and individual guilt? Does such a thing as universally applicable morality exist? Is it acceptable for states to impose their will and laws on other countries? These are just some of the questions put forward by director Marcel Ophuls.
The third of Marcel Ophuls’ monumental inquiries into the questions of individual and collective guilt following the calamities of war and genocide, The Memory of Justice examines three of the defining tragedies of the Western world in the second half of the 20th century, from the Nuremberg trials through the French-Algerian war to the disaster of Vietnam, building from a vast range of interviews, from Telford Taylor (Counsel for the Prosecution at Nuremberg, later a harsh critic of our escalating involvement in Vietnam) to British prosecutor Hartley Shawcross and Albert Speer to Daniel Ellsberg and Joan Baez. Archive footage alternates with personal stories and philosophical reflections on guilt and innocence. Ophuls once said, “The Germans, unfortunately, are just like other people.” This touches at the very heart of this film, which poses the question of whether it is justified to condemn other peoples’ choices made in a specific situation.
This monumental film raises essential questions about the moral choices made by individuals and governments in wartime. As Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times when The Memory of Justice was screened at the 1976 Cannes and New York Film Festival, Ophuls’ film “expands the possibilities of the documentary motion picture in such a way that all future films of this sort will be compared to it.”
Seldom seen since its premiere and then only in rare 16mm prints, the film has now been painstakingly restored by the Academy Film Archive in association with Paramount Pictures and The Film Foundation.
The rarely seen epic was presented at the Berlin, Toronto and New York film festivals in 2015. This HBO2 presentation marks the world television premiere of the restored version.
20th-century Academy Film Archive Albert Speer Cannes Film Festival Counsel for the Prosecution at Nuremberg Daniel Ellsberg French-Algerian war Governments Hartley Shawcross HBO2 individuals Joan Baez Marcel Ophuls Memory of Justice New York Film Festival Nuremberg Paramount Pictures Stuyvesant Films Stuyvesant Films The Memory of Justice Telford Taylor The Film Foundation The Memory of Justice The New York Times The third of Marcel Ophuls Third Reich Vietnam Vincent Canby