Vir Srinivas’ writing and directorial debut, Orders From Above has picked up awards or nominations at four world festivals, including Cannes and Mannheim. It is available on iTunes and all major digital platforms including YouTube, Vudu, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video. The 87-minute film is based on the interrogation of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann by Israeli police. (Gravitas Ventures, 2022)
Orders From Above – Winner of Best Historical Film at Cannes World Film Festival. Fifteen years after the end of World War II, Israeli police officer Avner Less interrogates Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution. Adolf Eichmann is finally captured and brought to Israel to stand trial, but without enough evidence to prosecute him, Avner Less needs a confession from him. Directed by Vir Srinivas, with Richard Cotter, Peter J. Donnelly, Darrell Hoffman, and Emmanuel Drakakis.
Orders From Above is based on real events and is set almost entirely in one sparse motel room as Police Captain Avner conducts several interviews with Adolf Eichmann, the mastermind of the Holocaust. Eichmann has finally been captured and brought to Israel to stand trial for the events that took place between 1933 and 1945. Without enough evidence to prosecute him, Police Captain Avner Less must extract a confession to give him a fair trial. For Eichmann’s own safety and to avoid a lynch mob, the interviews take place in an undisclosed location.
Eichmann gives his background, including how easily he fell into the SS, the Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads, whose final solution included eliminating all enemies of the 3rd Reich. He claims all he did was deport Jews from Hungary and nothing else and that he never had anything to do with giving orders, he only reported what was going on. He makes it a point to stress that he only had a passive role and that he was only a small cog in a big machine, basically an ancillary role and that he was only following orders. When they are no closer to getting a confession, his boss orders Captain Less to fabricate the transcripts but he refuses because unlike Eichmann, he will not blindly follow orders. In a last desperate effort, Captain Less shows Eichmann documentary footage of the mass burials at the extermination camps but all he does is reiterate that he showed unconditional obedience and kept repeating “I obeyed.” He does, though, offer to hang himself in public as an example and states that “the only crime I’m guilty of is apathy.” In the end, Eichmann is convicted on 15 criminal charges, including crimes against the Jewish people and he was hanged the following year. This was the only time Israel has carried out a death sentence.
Since most of the action takes place in a motel room, Orders From Above seems more like a play than a full length feature movie. With the memory of World War II being so far in the past, it serves as an excellent reminder of what happens when one group of people sees others as less than human. The film is in black and white, which gives it the appearance of a genuine historical document. Being that it is mostly dialogue driven, it might be hard for some viewers to remain interested, especially given the heavy subject matter. It should be noted that it contains explicit descriptions and footage, specifically at the end when Eichmann is forced to watch the footage of the horrors of the Holocaust. It might be difficult to watch for some and though it may not bring new information to the conversation, it is an educational tool and reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. Excellent performances by both leading men, especially Peter J. Donnelly as the emotionless, generally unapologetic Adolf Eichmann.
*Thank you to October Coast for an advance screening. The views and opinions expressed here belong solely to the author.