2 Or 3 Things I Know About Him
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2 Or 3 Things I Know About Him

It's easy to dismiss Malte Ludin's documentary 2 Or 3 Things I Know About Him as the worst kind of apologia for wretched behavior, or maybe a feature-length attempt to say "the Nazis loved their children too." But in exploring his father's stint as a Nazi commander—which ended in execution in 1947—Ludin is less interested in defending daddy's choices than in examining how his family has dealt with the disconnect between the sweet-natured man they knew at home and the piles of documents that show the hand he played in executing Slovakian Jews. Ludin admits that he hopes to find a document that will prove his father had no direct knowledge of Hitler's "final solution," or that Dad was secretly a resistance fighter, but mostly, he's resigned himself to the facts, and now ponders whether a stain on one man's life spreads to everyone he knew.

Most of Ludin's family has come to grips with their legacy too, and at least one, a South African niece, is more fretful over her connection to apartheid. But Ludin's sister Barbel stubbornly insists, "It's my right to see my father the way I want to see him," and the two of them go around and around about whether they can plausibly believe that Hans Ludin didn't know what was happening on his watch. (Barbel thinks that "the kinds of Jews" who couldn't afford to buy their way out of the camps were lower-class, and therefore easier for everyday Germans to overlook.) And when Ludin goes to meet the families of some Holocaust victims, he winds up channeling his sister, making excuses.

Aesthetically, 2 Or 3 Things I Know About Him is slick and straightforward, with a few snazzy visual effects (like the intertitles that pop up between sections) and a few overtly symbolic moments (like Ludin's telling visit to the optometrist). The most daring thing about the movie is arguably its title, which rips off Jean-Luc Godard for no obvious reason. Even though 2 Or 3 Things' central irony is blunt, Ludin's tone remains measured throughout, and never self-serving. He acknowledges the contradiction in his family's decision to honor their father by admiring his conviction, and he lets Barbel express her opinion: "I still think he was better than I am, and better than you."

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