by Confronti Editorial Staff
The presentation of the film Evolution took place on Thursday January 27th at 6.00 pm at the Troisi Cinema (via Girolamo Induno, 1 – Rome), thanks to the collaboration between the Rivista and Centro Studi Confronti and Piccolo America. The film was directed by Kornél Mundruczó, Hungarian author of Pieces of a Woman, awarded in Venice with the Volpi Cup for the interpretation of Vanessa Kirby and nominated for an Oscar in 2021.
The film reflects on memory and identity by telling the story of a family that, through three generations, is confronted with the legacy of the Shoah, starting with the surreal discovery of little Éva in a concentration camp. It is inspired by a novel by Imre Kertész, following the life of his nephew Jonas and his mother in contemporary Berlin.
The story is inspired by the mother and family of screenwriter Kata Wéber, who participated in livestreaming in the panel that preceded the screening of the film. “I lost my mother recently, during the shooting of the film, so there are many references to her within it. However, my goal was not to talk about the past, but to question myself on identity in contemporary society. Identity is fluid and constantly changing, it is not something that is acquired at the moment of birth and remains so but it is in constant evolution. In the same way, a trauma linked to something that we have not experienced and which is handed down between generations, is something intangible and surreal because it has a great influence on our existence even if we have not experienced it directly. It is a shadow that follows us constantly, but which is not us because it comes from the land of the unknown.”
The loss of the transmission of the memory of the Shoah when all its witnesses disappear is told in Olocaustico (Giuntina, 2019), the novel by Alberto Caviglia, which deals with the theme in a singular key. “Holocaust finds its raison d’etre in a statistical study by the Anti-Semitism Observatory, according to which, in Italy in 2004, 2.7% of citizens did not believe in the existence of the Shoah. That percentage in 2020 reached 15.9%. This is a chilling fact that testifies that we are losing a battle against denial, and against those who try to downsize and question the existence of the Shoah. The book tackles this theme with satire, a mechanism that arises on the one hand from the exponential increase of fake news, and the growth of poisonous content to which people give more and more creedence, because we are in an era in which falsifying history is easy through social networks. On the other hand, the last eyewitnesses of the Shoah are disappearing, who are the last possible antidote to the horde that seeks to attack the foundation of the historical reality of the Shoah and is managing to undermine and deconstruct memory. This is a dystopia in which these two factors are exasperated, but speaking realistically will remain for at least the next few years. In this book I am not joking about the Shoah but about those who exploit it using their own weapons. And the choice to tackle a theme like this with an ironic tone is dictated by the fact that, without giving up a classic narrative of the Shoah, one must try to involve a different audience in an alternative way, also through a laugh that conveys an important message.”
Raffaella di Castro, author of Witnesses of the Unproven: Remembering, Thinking, Imagining the Shoah in the Third Generation (Carocci, 2008), in turn, thinks about the issue of transmitting the legacy of the Shoah between generations. “More than a book, it is a journey through memory in which an awareness of the lived and the not-lived develops. This experience unites all the Jewish peers I interviewed for the book, in which memories come back obsessively as experiences directly lived, as if I were the little girl who has to hide and change her name, as if in the cradle I was told that I myself am the prisoner in Auschwitz. The first step was to become aware of the fact that the child who had to hide was not me, but my mother, and the consequences that all this had had on my person. The risk was that of having a memory that is emotional and traumatic—but empty of information. This elaboration of memory is in dialogue with 23 interviews with Jews born between the 60s and 80s in which biographical memories are intertwined with historical, philosophical and psychoanalytic reflections starting from the fundamental question, namely, why it is important and a duty to remember the Shoah and why is the memory of the Shoah exemplary for reflections on memory. As Primo Levi explains, “It is a collective duty to remember the Shoah because it was itself an attempt to destroy memory, a war against memory.”
Journalist and writer Lia Tagliacozzo, author of several publications including The Generation of the Desert (Manni, 2020), also took part in the debate in telling the story of her family. “I started to reconstruct this story when I was a child, then this research went on throughout my life. I only found out in adolescence that my father had an 8-year-old sister who had been deported and killed in Auschwitz, which I had never known about. It was a “conspiracy of silence” that I consider to be loving, because it allowed me, my sister and my brother to grow up peacefully, despite some shadows. Then the eruption of the discovery of this little girl changed something inside me. It is no coincidence that I started talking about the Shoah in a children’s book, precisely out of a desire to replace silence with a measured story with the right words for a child. While considering this generous silence, a sort of conspiracy of love for mutual protection, to protect against a painful memory, I believe that the need to reconstruct history is important and urgent. This constant research has resulted in my need for writing that has allowed me to fill the gaps of the unspoken.”
At the end of the screening, a video message was shown by the Hungarian writer Edith Bruck, a survivor of the concentration camps and winner of the 2021 Strega Giovani Award with the novel Il Pane Perduto (La nave di Teseo, 2021). Guardian of a precious memory, the writer is the spokesperson for her past, not only in her books, but also in schools for over sixty years, where she brings to the new generation the living testimony of a story that should not be forgotten.