To the Editor:
Harris Dienstfrey’s dissenting opinion on Judgment at Nuremberg [“Two Views of Judgment at Nuremberg” January; Harris Dienstfrey, Jason Epstein] is the worst bit of petulant and flatulent movie criticism I’ve read in a long time. . . . Nor have I read one more poorly written—that long-winded introductory “speech to the jury” about message pictures in general and Stanley Kramer’s in particular should have been thrown out of court as immaterial and irrelevant. Yet Mr. Dienstfrey has the chutzpah to criticize the film purely on technical grounds; for example, he objects to the abrupt cutting from coffee poured into a demitasse cup to coffee poured into a paper cup. Doesn’t he know that this is a transition technique in film? As a writer he should know that transitions are necessary to tie paragraphs (viz. scenes in a screenplay) together. If he doesn’t know that as a writer, he should as an editor. . . .
San Lorenzo, California
To the Editor:
Mr. epstein’s sententious comment on Judgment at Nuremberg is a particularly dispiriting example of the attitudinizing that passes for political thought these days among young intellectuals. . . .
He writes: “We are being asked to think of ourselves at the end of World War III in a position similar to that of the defendants—ourselves, ordinary men, perhaps even extraordinary men, who under the stress of a national crisis are acquiescing in crimes beside which Hitler’s will seem small.”
What does any of this mean? Who are the “we”? We Americans, we Russians, we the People? The moral crime of the “good Germans” is that they did not resist Hitler. Does Mr. Epstein mean, then, that “we” are in a similar position if “we” do not resist Soviet aggression? Or does he mean that “we” are guilty of moral turpitude in resisting Soviet aggression, and thus running the risk of a heinous war? . . .
Or take the conclusion: “We are also left with the idea that where there is life there is choice, and where there is choice there is also the possibility that we too may one day be called to account for decisions we failed to make, for opportunities that we may have overlooked, for alternatives we were too blind to know were there.”
Does anything follow from this? Only the extraordinary profound conclusion that “where there is life there is choice. . . .”
New York City