Sog.: ispirato al libro Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy di Telford Taylor. Scen.: Marcel Ophüls. F.: Michael J. Davis. M.: Inge Behrens, Marion Kraft. Int.: Yehudi Menuhin, Telford Taylor, Karl Donitz, Albert Speer, Daniel L. Ellsberg, Barbara Keating, Robert Ransom, Marcel Ophüls. Prod.: Hamilton Fish, Ana Carrigan, Sanford Lieberson, Max Palevsky, David Puttnam · DCP. Bn e Col.
Like his earlier The Sorrow and the Pity, which examined the behavior of the French during the Nazi occupation, Marcel Ophuls’s The Memory of Justice expands the possibilities of the documentary motion picture in such a way that all future films of this sort will be compared to it. The Sorrow and the Pity and The Memory of Justice have set standards and created expectations that even Mr. Ophuls himself may not always meet, as in A Sense of Loss, his film about Northern Ireland, that was just as elusive as its subject. Mr. Ophuls doesn’t deal in paltry material.
The Memory of Justice is monumental, though not only because it goes on for a demanding four hours and thirty-eight minutes, plus an intermission. It also marks off, explores, calls attention to, and considers, tranquilly, without making easy judgments, one of the central issues of our time: collective versus individual responsibility.
The starting point is an evocation of the 1946-47 Nuremberg war crimes trials, through newsreels and interviews with surviving defendants, prosecutors, defending attorneys, and witnesses, that leads to a consideration of French tactics in the fight to keep Algeria and America in action in Vietnam.
“I go on the assumption”, says Yehudi Menuhin early in the film, “that everyone is guilty”. But that sort of readiness to accept responsibility, simply by being a member of mankind, evades the truth that Mr. Ophuls seeks here.
The ethical questions are timeless but the subject is particular, and it’s through the accumulation of particularities that The Memory of Justice makes its impact. More than forty persons are interviewed by Mr. Ophuls, and a dozen more key figures are seen speaking for themselves in old newsreel footage. […]
Mr. Ophuls is very much a presence in The Memory of Justice, sometimes on the screen as the interviewer, shaping the film by his commitment to search through the past to discover the present. Perhaps because he himself was an exile from Nazi Germany, the son of an exile (Max Ophüls), and is married to a German woman who (in the course of this film) recalls her membership in the Hitler Youth, The Memory of Justice seems an especially personal, urgent work.
The Memory of Justice is long but it rivets the mind and the emotions so consistently that I can think of a dozen ninety-minute movies far more difficult to endure.
Vincent Canby, “The New York Times”, October 5, 1976
Restored by the Academy Film Archive in association with Paramount Pictures and The Film Foundation. Restoration funding provided by The Material World Charitable Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation, and The Film Foundation. The primary source material for the restoration was the original 16mm camera negative. The original recordings of Ophüls‘ interviews with French and German-speaking participants in the film were discovered and replaced the existing English-language voiceover track. The Film Foundation consulted director Marcel Ophüls, who approved of this change from the original release version and indicated that he had originally intended to use subtitled French and German language tracks.