Retrospective Voyeurism

The ‘Peephole Motif’ in Contemporary Holocaust Cinema

  • Guido Vitiello
Keywords: Holocaust Cinema, Visual Studies, Voyeurism

Abstract

The peephole in the door of the gas chamber is a recurring motif in modern Holocaust cinema, appearing across the whole spectrum of film genres – Hollywood melodrama, horror film, historical documentary, European art film, exploitation B-movie. It is mostly shown through the gaze of an SS officer, thus associating the spectator’s position with that of the perpetrator. The peephole motif pushes the limits of Holocaust representation and defies the cultural codification of the gas chamber as a 'no trespass' area of the gaze. Its uncanny recurrence is better understood in the light of the growing sacralisation of the Holocaust, which has led to an ambiguous tabooization, fetishisation and even eroticisation of the gas chamber. Vehiculating our cinematic “fantasies of witnessing” (G. Weissman), the peephole motif reconfigures the imagination of the Holocaust as retrospective voyeurism.

Published
2018-07-25