Finally Watched It – Challenge Edition: “Philosophy of a Knife” (2008)

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This movie is a docu-drama of the horrific experiments that went on at Unit 731.

Yeah. That’s about it. There conflicting reports of the absolute horrors that were committed but, aside from what I hope is sensationalism in this movie, me and my non-unethical scientist brain had several questions as to the scientific validity of what the absolute fuck was going on. I swear, some of the shit that goes on in this movie is less “what can we learn from this” and more “I’mma stab this sharp object in the general area of something I think is important and fuckiddy-do, let’s write down what happens.” Not to spoil things and this is probably my 2022, not a medical doctor bias but… Even dehumanizing these people as “logs” (omfg I just hope I never have to see people this way…), there are some baffling skips in the scientific method that make no sense to me.

And again, there’s historical information that has been destroyed and is missing so, there’s a ton of drama in this; including a young soldier who falls in love with a “log” and… You know what? I’m gonna spoil this. Because I was actually screaming at my computer screen! The war is ending. The entire area is told to destroy everything, including the test subjects. So, this soldier had taken a liking to one of the subjects and he’s been keeping her (relatively) safe. But in the end, she has to go. What does he do? He gives her a taste of freedom. She finally breathes free air, touches flowers, and sees the sun. At this point, I’m thinking this is an “Of Mice and Men” moment and he’s gonna mercy kill her. Okay. That’s the world we’re in when it comes to this docu-drama but… They had to fuck THAT up. This soldier couldn’t have the fucking consideration to one shot her. He derps to shoot her to wound at first, walk up to her, LOOK HER IN THE EYE, then take the final shot. Then having the absolute nerve to give the impression he felt like he did the right thing in the end?

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(NO)

Even after having to watch the sensationalized experiments for the entire runtime (to the point like with August Underground, I was waiting for this to just move on), I was left with this feeling of fatigue. There were live interviews where I felt I learned something but the overall experience left me wishing more of this was historical information and less drama. Yeah, this is in the disturbing movie you don’t dare to watch genre but I found myself being more upset about the hacksaw distortion of what these characters thought research was than the gore on screen. Granted, my 2022 non-wartime, not a medical doctor or scientific researcher brain came up with 4-6 ways of conducting certain experiments in a manner that left less variables (there was a literal zombie movie trope where they didn’t restrain a disease ridden delirious patient – who knows he’s a disposable prisoner and has nothing to lose – and he bit a doctor) but even then, I felt pissed off at the end of it. Especially with that “Gosh, I think I’m doing a good thing” soldier in the end.

There are plenty of types of media I’ve reviewed on my blog where I say what I have consumed is a good touchstone for further research into historical events. I don’t feel I can confidently say that here. If you want dramatized historical gore, go for it, I guess? I had more of a visceral and traumatic reaction to Schindler’s List. Perhaps Unit 731 needs the same treatment and needs a more serious movie.

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Lenni Reviews: “Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem” by Steve Niles, Matt Santoro & Dave Wachter

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During WWII, a Allied plane crashes near a small Jewish villiage. While the citizens don’t agree on whether or not to hide the injured pilot, the Nazis come to investigate the village. Rightfully fearing the worst, they summon a golem made of mud to protect themselves.

Poignant and short, this is a beautiful story about family, faith, and honor. It does a great job with it’s story; leaving no room for fluff. Usually something this short would feel incomplete but this is satisfying and highly recommended. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Irena: Book Two: Children of the Ghetto” by Jean-David Morvan

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

In a switch up in form, this volume starts with Oliwka, one of the children Irena saved, telling her story to her own daughter before an event where Irena speaks to continue from where the first volume left off. Irena is saved from prison and immediately goes back to helping people escape.

Much like the first, I found this to be beautifully and tastefully done. If you want to introduce someone to Irena’s story and work, I think this is a great primer for further research. The art may be simple but it gets the point across as to the horrors of this point in history. If you like historical graphic novels, this is a great read. 4.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Photographer of Mauthausen” by Salva Rubio & Pedro Columbo

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is recommended for mature readers.

This graphic novel is a dramatized story of Francisco Boix, a Spanish press photographer who ended up the confidant of an SS officer at the Mauthausen concentration camp.

This isn’t an easy read but so many stories came out of this time and a man risking everything to expose the truth of the Nazi camps and try to bring justice is a great addition. How much of this is true, I don’t know but I found this to be compelling and respectful. It’s drawn well with enough detail to get the point without being gratuitous. Just have something happy lined up to read after. 4.7 out of 5.

 

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Lenni Reviews: “The Night Witches” by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun

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* This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

This graphic novel presents the story of The Night Witches through the lens of a fictional character, Anna.

At first, I was excited to get a graphic novel about The Night Witches. If you check out that Wikipedia entry, you can see they were awesome. But then, I see the main character is fictional and I felt immediate disappointment. Call me petty but I didn’t want characters based on the real women, I wanted the real women. Irena may have some dramatizations but Irena existed. But I give it the benefit of the doubt and read it.

Oof…

I didn’t even like Anna, everything felt so forced – including all the random sex scenes –  the villains feel over the top, and the art style didn’t click with me at all. I could tell there was an effort but, it all felt sour at the end. If anything, hopefully, this will get people curious enough to do further reading. 2 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Artist and the Soldier” by Angelle Petta

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is recommended for mature readers.

In this sprawling tale, we have Max Amsel and Bastian Fisher who meet as teens in Camp Seigfried then again as adults in the thick of World War II.

First off, I dunno if I was taught this in school and forgot or just wasn’t taught this but I was SHOCKED that the Nazi Camp Siegfried was a real place in NY! I honestly didn’t realize such camps existed and kudos to this book for teaching me that.

This book is almost perfect. It focuses more on the war itself and how it’s affecting everyone, not just our main characters. A great deal of the plot is plucked straight from history. The writing is compelling, the action is well done, and the romance did tug at my heart. If you like historical fiction with a bit of angst, I recommend this despite the ending being a bit of a drop-off. But you can tell a lot of love went into this book. 4.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “They Called Us Enemy” by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker

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This graphic novel biography details George Takei’s four years in American Japanese internment camps during WWII.

I read this book with tears in my eyes the entire time. I remember learning about these camps in school and back then I couldn’t imagine people being so backward, paranoid, and inhumane.

But that was middle school me. Thirty-eight year old me has seen the news in 2019.

This book is not easy to read because people suck but much like putting myself through Maus and Irena; it does remind me that humans can also be amazing. I had to opportunity to see Mr. Takei speak about his time in the camps and I’m glad I did. I hope people realize one day, history will look back on us just as we look back now on what we did to the Japanese back then. 5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Irena Book One: Wartime Ghetto” by Jean-David Morvan, Séverine Tréfouël & David Evrard

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

This graphic novel tells the story of Irena Sendlerowa, a social worker in the Warsaw ghetto in the early 1940’s who helped smuggle 2500 Jewish children out of the ghetto before getting captured and tortured by the Nazis.

While of course, this is not easy to read, it is an important story and I am glad to see it told. I’m not sure I would give this to a young person as it doesn’t flinch much from the horrors of the ghettos and Nazi torture but it’s still a great book. If I had a nitpick, it would be the ending. Spoilery but it shows her walking off into the light as if she died when she didn’t. She lived into her 90’s. 4.9 out of 5.

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