While discussing the relation between post war situation in Europe and the “new” cinema, Deleuze writes, “In Europe, post-war period has greatly increased the situations which we no longer know how to react to in spaces which we no longer know how to describe. These “any-spaces-whatever”, deserted but inhabited, disused warehouses, waste ground, cities in the course of demolition or reconstruction. And in these any-spaces-whatever a new race of characters was stirring, kind of mutant: They saw rather than acted, they were seers.” In his theory of the Time-Image, Deleuze was insistent on the characteristics of a new kind of cinematic space which stands for its own right in the cinematic medium. For Deleuze, not only the nature of cinematic medium itself was important, but also the ways in which that cinematic medium was perceived by the audience. Let us say, the space stood for its own right in De Sica’s Umberto D., but is it because the audience comprehend it as such, or is it the intrinsic quality of that space itself which elicits and wakes up the untouched memories of the audience out of nowhere? Seen from this aspect, how can we explain the spatial representations in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah? Do the spaces stand for their own rights and existences in this film? From a purely cinematic point of view, we can respond to this question as such: The spaces in Shoah are by no means designed for the continuity of a particular story. Nor do their mere existences enable the continuity of the narration. Eventually, spaces in Shoah stand for their own rights. They are not purposeful. However, one might object to this particular response: They are supposed to be purposeful. It is not necessary for those spaces to function as minor components of a cinematic sign. Indeed, they do serve a purpose; by the display of testimonies on the spaces where the actual events had taken place, the cinematic medium provides us, as Agamben would suggest, the impossibility of bearing witness. Nonetheless, one further dichotomy should be explored. Shoah is composed of two distinct layers on the basis of the impossibility of bearing witness. First of all, in the film, there are the survivors, and the ones who witnessed the atrocity in the camps, but not the subjects of the camps themselves, and the relatives of survivors who listened to the survivors’ stories. Both a survivor and a farmer near the camp have their own testimonies which they narrate through the cinematic medium. Secondly, there is the audience, who didn’t witness the events, but listens to the testimonies. Primo Levi argued that them, the survivors were not the true witnesses, but the ones who died in the camps were. The survivors bear witness to the impossibility of bearing witness. But who are we, the audience? We stand still, watch, see. We have no memories to revive neither by the spaces nor the testimonies. For us, the ones who read and hear testimonies, the ones who intend to analyze and interpret a trauma which has never belonged to us, the ones who undertake a mission of symbolization to convert the unfamiliar into the familiar, are witnessing nothing but a Deleuzean space, in which we are nothing but visionaries.
On the other hand, Andre Bazin mentions of the indexical quality of signs through which an ontological bond between the reality and the film is established. Surely, Bazin’s arguments on the intrinsic realism of cinema is raised upon what is taken for granted as the basic truth about cinematic process, that cinema’s ability to capture duration, its close relation to time and its capability of mummification of the time. In this regard, what kind of an ontological bond between reality and the film is present in Shoah? This relation implies that the “reality” is the icy forest or it is the train station of Treblinka. Yet they are the signifiers of another reality, a sign, which none of us except the survivors witnessed. The camera claims to have established an ontological bond between the film and a space which is the signifier of not only another space at past but also a whole experience conducted on that it. At this point, on one hand, the camera fails to establish an ontological bond between reality and the film, while the testimonies of survivors fail to bear witness. The film fails, because the very act of testifying fails. After all, Shoah displays a cinematic medium which manifests not only the impossibility of bearing witness but also the impossibility of representing the impossibility of bearing witness.