May 24, 2004
Control Room and S21
We saw Control Room last night at the Film Forum and S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine Friday night--since Control Room was completely sold out, we saw S21 instead. S21 was slow, deep, and bone aching. Clearly taking a page from Lanzmann's Shoah, but oh so different. Shawna and I visited the site where the film was shot--S21 was the code name for Tuol Sleng prison--which is now a museum. The film was shot in several of the empty rooms, There were glimpses of rooms arranged as part of the museum, but the film did not really deal with the status of the site as a museum today. This complicated the relationship of the film to the site in ways worth thinking about. No tourists, no visitors. Rather, an unremitting focus on the measured confrontation of the filmmaker, two survivors (out of 17,000) of the prison, and several former prison guards. They remembered and reenacted the brutal routines in the stark setting of empty rooms filled with unbearable pain.