Almost Doctor Who:
Eat Pray Love

Film  As we’ve discussed before if you’re a Doctor Who fan, or at least the kind of Doctor Who fan who’s bought every dvd in the range including re-releases and re-re-release (Resurrection of the Daleks), you can’t turn it off.  “It” in this context being a habitual awareness of the franchise in other contexts, like not being able to watch the recent series of Law & Order UK without wondering why Martha Jones is knocking around with the Fifth Doctor or noticing that it’s quite some way into Chalet Girl before someone who hasn’t been in Doctor Who appears, the KFC knock-off at the beginning employing both The Unicorn and the wasp.

“It” can creep up on you when you least expect it and believe me, I didn’t expect to be half way through the languorous post-hippie travelogue Eat Pray Love, blurting out “This is just like Doctor Who!” into my empty room especially since there don’t appear to be any casting connections whatsoever.  Unlike the previous entries in this series too, this isn’t some desperate attempt to absorb some much loved (or at least liked) material into a franchise which isn’t, let’s face it, desperate for new material.  I hate Eat Pray Love, with its grizzly orientalism, leisurely pace and pre-packed la-de-da.  Only a few of the performances make it in any way watchable.

That and once I’d noticed it, trying to spot the many ways it is similar to Who, a rabbit hole which opens with the protagonist.  Over the years, the reasons the Doctor originally stole the Type 40 and left Gallifrey have been hinted at, most recently in The Doctor’s Wife.  The general impression is that he was bored, sick of the stuffy arrogance of Time Lord society and seeking “a great spirit of adventure” and he’s continued wanting taking his companions out to see the wonders of the universe in a desperate attempt to fight a very personal, very fundamental numbness, the kind of enuii which can only develop in someone whose over a thousand years old.

In Eat Pray Love, we find Liz (Julia Roberts) a modern real world career woman who has everything a woman of her ilk dreams about (a house, a man) but like the Doctor is just bored with the whole effort.  Once divorced, she decides that the thing to do is leave everything behind and go for some adventures, or as the official synopsis has it “Gilbert steps out of her comfort zone, risking everything to change her life, embarking on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery.”  So their motives aren’t that dissimilar and neither is their transport.  The Doctor has his TARDIS.  Liz’s bank account is also dimensionally transcendental.

Liz’s journey is broken into four sections, the prologue which sets up the story, then three other episodes, the eat, the pray and the love, so it’s following the archetypical episode structure of Doctor Who (and given the varying lengths of those episodes not unlike a Big Finish audio).  Each of those stories pretty much offers a discrete chapter, so it’s most like the caravan or quest genre of Who adventure in which a TARDIS team find themselves in a new location with new challenges each episode exemplified by 60s stories like The Keys of Marinus or The Chase and latterly the Eighth Doctor audio Seasons of Fear with an overall story tied up at the conclusion.

In order to create some element of pace and cut down on endless shots of planes landing in airports, the transitions between section are rather haphazardly edited with Liz almost popping into existence in each location, thrown into some ensuing chaos and, like the TARDIS team, trying to cope with what each new culture is throwing at her.  One of the few great moments in the film is when Liz is tossed around the back seat of a car, sheepishly looking out of the windows as though the walls of the city are going to fall on top of her.  It's not too dissimilar those scenes in the modern series, with the TARDIS interior’s erratic enough to throw its inhabitants to the floor.

It’s only really (really!) when we reach the content of the adventures that the analogy admittedly runs into trouble.  In each of the different locations, like the Doctor, Liz befriends a couple of the locals.  In Italy it’s a Scandinavian and a language coach, in India an alcoholic Texan (played by Richard Jenkins in yet another of his sad man roles) and a young girl in an arranged marriage, in Bali a couple of healers and Javier Bardem.  But unlike the Doctor she’s not there to fix their lives, she's there to learn from them: to be spontaneous, be in touch with your spiritual side and um, if you keep the right side of Santa’s list you can snag a Bardem.

The way Liz goes about this isn't un-Doctorish, always open to new experiences, unafraid to ask the difficult questions but similarly willing to learn, a trait that's especially evident in the newer series.  It's not unusual too for the Doctor to become the passive observer in some adventures, dragged along by events, his intervention not always instrumental to the outcome especially in some of the historicals.  He doesn't effect much change in the final few episodes of An Unearthly Child, other than running away from a cave of skulls and threatening to brick a man in the head to escape.

Plus, in the spin-off material there have been short stories or even whole novels that have hinged on the Doctor learning from some spiritual journey especially in the case of the Sixth and Eighth Doctors who spend an inordinate amount of time moping around, building train sets, attending retreats and in the case of the former rocking with The Beatles.  The television series is also thick with unseen stories which amount to little more than an encounter with someone famous because the Time Lord can or showing off some planet like Women Wept to his latest companion, assuming he’s not inspecting a nebula himself.

But it’s just not the archetypical adventure, not that the classic series wouldn’t have benefited from trying something this experimental now and then.  Who knows, Colin Baker might have survived the 80s bump if the Doctor had visited Tranquil Repose on Necros and simply been allowed to pay his last respects to Stengos whilst having long nostalgic chats with Natasha and Grigory about their mutual friend and sitting in for Alexi Sayle’s DJ and offering some comfort to the corpses underhindered by yet another repetitious appearance from Davros and the Daleks with Peri finally being taken to Blackpool afterwards.

Except it’s not terribly dramatic which is Eat Pray Love’s curse.  As Liz drifts through the film, the only tension is whether we’ll be treated to a flash of Julia Roberts’s smile, the supporting characters rarely on-screen long enough to present much in the way of jeopardy.  But nevertheless, the thrust of the piece, her “great spirit of adventures” feels very fundamentally Who-like which is presumably why I had that revelation, for all its insanity.  But as the title of this series suggests, I didn’t think it was Doctor Who, I thought it was almost Doctor Who.  If only Bardem’s character was revealed to be a Zygon.

Finding Ophelia.

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's Finding Shakespeare blog looks at various depictions of Ophelia, focusing initially on a 1789 painting by Benjamin West:
"The flowers in this painting do not necessarily depict the individual emotions such as remembrance and thoughts that they do in Shakespeare’s text, but instead we see a collection of wild flowers in Ophelia’s hair, in her clothes and on the floor. They symbolise other-worldliness and link her with nature and perhaps also mythology. They emphasise Ophelia’s incongruity with court and the characters around her."
There's also an excellent video of Anna Griffith revealing key items from their collection.

"landed his aeroplane in a field near the railway line at Roade"

Travel Today's featured article at the Wikipedia is about the 1910 London to Manchester air race which "took place between two aviators, each of whom attempted to win a heavier-than-air powered flight challenge between London and Manchester first proposed by the Daily Mail newspaper in 1906" and seems like the perfect subject for a film. Here's the turning point at the close of the second act:
"Grahame-White had attempted to make a test flight earlier that day, but the huge crowds had hampered his efforts, and he was unable to take off. Having spent two days supervising the reconstruction of his aeroplane, he retired to a nearby hotel. At about 6:10 pm he was awakened with the news that Paulhan had begun his attempt, and he decided to set off in pursuit. This time he had no trouble clearing a space in the crowd.  His biplane's engine was started, and by 6:29 pm he had passed the starting line. Almost an hour later he flew over Leighton Buzzard, just as Paulhan was passing over Rugby. As night approached, Grahame-White landed his aeroplane in a field near the railway line at Roade, in Northamptonshire.  Fifteen minutes later, Paulhan reached Lichfield, where about 117 miles (188 km) into his journey he ran out of fuel. He managed to land the biplane in a field near Trent Valley railway station.  The aeroplane was pegged down, and Paulhan left with his colleagues to stay overnight at a nearby hotel. Grahame-White meanwhile stayed at the house of a Dr. Ryan. Both aviators intended to restart at 3:00 am the following day."
This was the first of the Mail's aviation prizes which ended in 1930 with Amy Johnson's solo flight from England to Australia.  You could argue that peopel would think more of the paper now if it was more interested in inspiring people rather than scaring them.

"his iconic portrait of Her Majesty The Queen"

Art  Ha-hah-hahoo-haha-hum.  Rolf's art is coming to the Walker in Liverpool:
"A major retrospective of legendary artist, musician and TV personality, Rolf Harris, goes on display at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool from 19 May to 12 August 2012.

"Titled: Rolf Harris: Can You Tell What It Is Yet? features an eclectic range of paintings, memorabilia and much more from the UK’s best selling published artist and well loved entertainer.

"The original works on display - including paintings, drawings, lithographs, cartoons and sculptures - range from Rolf’s early days as a student to paintings he created at lightning speed in front of a TV camera. The exhibition also includes some of his most impressive and well known pieces, such as his iconic portrait of Her Majesty The Queen, painted in 2005 to mark her 80th birthday the following year. As part of the exhibition the royal portrait will be on display during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year."
Like most people of my generation some of my happiest memories were watching Rolf's pictures emerge from an apparently random selection of lines in prime time then later on the Cartoon Club/Time, fullscap pages filled with manic Warners and Disney crossovers years before Roger Rabbit.

the business aspect

Film There are, of course, plenty of ways one could celebrate International Women's Day but with time being limited, I've decided upon the easiest option of posting video of one of my favourite women speaking impressively on what's often considered a relatively frivolous topic because of the egotism which often ensues.

To accompany this year's Oscars, Newsweek brought together a group of A-list actors to talk about their profession.

The rump of the material is here, but this is my favourite as they consider the symbolism of the trailer with George Clooney deploying humour before Tilda Swinton goes directly for the business aspect, the conversation suddenly taking a turn for the film theory:

Like all of these conversation fragments, often what isn't said is just as interesting.  Who could Charlize Theron be referring to?

back in front

Film The Guardian (and a few million other sources) bring news that Woody's stepping back in front of the camera as an actor for hire in John Turturro's Fading Gigalo, playing one of the eponymous escorts.

Turturro's worked with Woody before having recently directed one of his stage scripts on Broadway.  He also acted with him in the rubbish Company Men (which Woody had his credit removed from) and gave Turturro an early film role in Hannah and Her Sisters as a writer.

Sharon Stone's in the guest cast too.  She appeared with Woody in Picking up the Pieces, his last appearance as actor for hire and Antz before that and way before that she was the girl on the train in Stardust Memories.  It's tangled web and if I don't stop now I'm likely to start writing one of these entries before the film's even made and in the wrong order.

"vertical and horizontal writing orientations"

Language Shoko Mugikura, a Japanese designer based in Berlin writes for Smashing Magazine about Japanese text and explains why some newspapers from her native country can seem so chaotic to the western eye:
"“Vertical or horizontal?” — when setting a piece of text in Japanese, this is a question that Japanese designers constantly need to ask themselves. Being able to use both vertical and horizontal writing orientations is something so normal for us native Japanese speakers that most of us won’t even stop to wonder why this is possible, or even when and how it was first introduced."
Essentially they're able to read both and they're used interchangeably or more often to emphasise context. This aids in the production of such things as tube maps because allowance don't need to be made for orientation of labels.

A Japanese poster for PiXAR's new film Brave also shows the versatility of having vertical and horizontal text.

Scene Unseen:
The Breakfast Club

Film The article I linked yesterday about Ally Sheedy reminds me of an essay I wrote during my post-graduate film course about The Breakfast Club for a "Research Methods" module. The question was ...

Select a short scene from a film and analyse how gender and sexuality are portrayed …

... and we were tasked (in under a thousand words) with finding a scene which best expressed such things as Laura Mulvey's gaze and how films are approached by female spectators. The ideal choice, selected by two of my other classmates is the moment from Vertigo when Jimmy Stewart's Scottie sees Kim Novak for the first time, which Mulvey mentions directly in her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.

Instead I chose, well you'll read. I later had to repeat a similar exercise for Amelia and Luc Besson's films Nikita and Taxi.  I somehow managed 60% for all three even though I didn't really know what I was doing.


The Breakfast Club (1985) is amongst a sequence of films written and sometimes directed by John Hughes exploring the subject of teen angst and a crisis of identity. It is Saturday morning detention in a high school for five students, characterised by an opening voiceover as ‘a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal’. The film takes place over an eight hour period largely spent in the library as the students argue, then slowly bond over common ground, realising that they are all the same in their own ways. The narrative culminates in a pygmalionesque moment during which Claire (the princess) takes tomboy Allison (the basket case) to one-side, ties her hair back, applies different make up and then sends her out again to be greeted by first Brian (the brain) and Andrew (the athlete). She becomes the subject of their gaze. Although the scene is inter cut with an intimate moment between Claire and Bender (the criminal) in a closet, this essay will concentrate on demonstrating how the audience’s reaction to the reveal is governed by the gaze, the implications of Allison’s transformation and how masculinity is portrayed through Andrew and Brian.

After a brief shot of Brian writing a detention essay, the frame focuses on Andrew’s reaction to the ‘new’ Allison and because the spectator sees her through his point of view during the final reveal, their surprise is heightened. The scene initially conforms completely to Laura Mulvey’s explanation of the gaze: ‘The male is the active “bearer of the look,” where the female in the passive object of the look.’ (Walker, 1981:83) ‘In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active male and passive/female.’ (Mulvey, 1975:11) The reveal does not initially hold on Allison’s form. Andrew looks upwards, almost in slow motion. There is a brief shot of a nervous Allison, there is a quick cut back to Andrew, before returning to Allison tentatively walking forward. The fill light which has pervaded the film, which had once disappeared into the character’s dark clothes and hair, now illuminates her white blouse and angelic face, making her form leap out of the frame. The spectator’s point of view is split; they are in the position of both gazing upon Allison and sympathising with her nerves at how others will react to her change. They are diverted because she is not passive and has an active story of her own.

Jonathan Bernstein argues that the emergence of the feminine Allison is problematic. She becomes ‘just another simpering, pretty high school girl with the hots for a jock’ were once ‘she was a unique and unnerving character’ (Bernstein, 1997: 67), although evidence would point to the effect being temporary. In the closing moments of the film, when Andrew rewards her change of look with a kiss, she rips the team badge from his shirt indicating that her rebelliousness is still in force. Mary Anne Doane would characterise this as a state in which ‘womanliness is a mask which can be worn or removed’ (Doane, 1991: 765). In previous scenes, Allison would work hard to make herself the centre of attention, making loud noises and telling wild stories about her sexual encounters which she would later laugh off saying ‘I'm not a nymphomaniac...I'm a compulsive liar…’ Here, she is unsure of the power her new femininity has, even asking Andrew if it is a ‘good or bad’ thing when he remarks that he can see her face. He says it is good she smiles broadly – she has simply found another, more visual away of keep the attention of others. As Shary indicates Allison ‘diminishes her previous rebel status and (provides) simply another false fa├žade behind which she can hide her anxieties’ (Shary, 2002: 52).

The scene also provides interesting contrasts in the presentation of masculinity. Andrew is presented initially, muscles taut, waiting for action. When Allison enters he leaps off wooden handrail he’s been sitting on and steps forward in what appears to be another example of the character asserting his manliness, something which happens throughout the film, generally against the other alpha-male Bender. During the film he has taken some time to understand Allison and why she seems to close herself off from everyone emotionally, perhaps because he feels himself in his jock status doing the same. ‘Andy is the jock as conflicted masculinity, determined to maintain his physical power but desiring to explore his more emotional – if not intellectual – dimensions.’ (Shary, 2002: 73) Somehow the presence of Allison, especially in this scene, allows him to be softer. He actually appears smaller in the frame and when commenting that he can see her face, he gestures around his chin a way which is quite feminine.

Brian, by contrast, largely accepts his less masculine status in the group. He ‘is indeed ostracized, ridiculed, physically and socially inept, and desexualised, but his yearning for a transformation from his nerd status to a more acceptable or dramatic personality is minimal.’ (Shary, 2002: 35) As the other male presenting the gaze in the scene, his eyes only fix on Allison long enough to gape and offer her his recognition before returning to the essay. He is not standing. He is shot from above, from her point of view, beneath her, placing him in a less prominent masculine position. The final shot of the scenes sees him finish is writing. He punches himself in the arm celebrating his success but it seems to be an almost ironic gesture – when Brian does try and assert his masculinity it is largely in a knowing way.

In the closing moments of the film the opening voiceover is repeated but this time, each character reads their own description and the implication has changed. ‘What we found out is that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal’ In effect they have discovered that they each share those traits both masculine and feminine and they will effect their near future to varying degrees.


Bernstein, Jonathan. 1997. Pretty In Pink: The Golden Age of Teenage Movies. St. Martin’s Griffin, New York.

Doane, Mary Anne. 1991. Film and the Maqueade: Theorising the Female Spectator. In. Film theory and criticism : introductory readings. 5th ed. 1999. Edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Mulvey, Laura. 1975. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. In Screen 16, 3:6-18

Shary, Timothy. 2002. Generation Multiplex: The Image of Youth in Contemporary American Cinema. University of Texas Press, Texas.

Walker, Janet. 1981. Psychoanalysis and Feminist Film Theory: The Problem of Sexual Difference and Identity. In. Multiple Voices in Feminist Film Criticism. Edited by Diane Carson et al. 1994. University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota.


The Breakfast Club. 1985. Production: Universal Studios. Directed by John Hughes.

"You have a strong body, my love."

Books The Awl unfolds the publication history of actress Ally Sheedy. Before her book of verse, she was a novelist writing at the age of twelve an alternative history for Elizabeth I from the point of view of some mice:
QEI gets naked at one point (bald, too, and with no makeup) and then the Earl of Essex pops out from under the bed, where he'd been hiding for a while. Sheedy is far more explicit about this possibility than is Strachey, I must say, in Elizabeth and Essex: a Tragic History.
"Come," she said and took his hand and kissed it! And then she embraced him. She led him to the bed smiling. Elizabeth gracefully sank onto the silken cover.
Essex sat on the edge and took his boots, jacket, shirt and stockings off. He stood up and removed his pants and was there in his underwear. Then he turned, and went about the room blowing out the candles.

It was very dark now and I couldn't see anything. But I heard.

Elizabeth said to him, "You have a strong body, my love."

And Essex said, "Have I, now? You really think so?"
Anonymous would later put such shenanigans on screen I hear. Not that I'd know since I'm still boycotting the thing.

"it refuses to tell you its basic ground rules"

Games Lately, my game of choice has been a poorly designed but usable Mahyong thing I downloaded from the Chrome stores. It's pretty tedious, but just the thing to stop me falling asleep when listening to a podcast late at night when it's still too early to go to bed.

 I'm pretty much done with most other forms of gaming having spent many, many years fighting but failing against the tide of complexity. Films, television, radio and books still feel like more active media, even if the muscle that's being used is my brain.

This Slate review of some new instant classic pretty much sums up my objection:
"Dark Souls takes so long to play because it refuses to tell you its basic ground rules, then kills you over and over again for failing to understand them. As a player, you proceed not by thinking through problems but by randomly trying anything and everything until something haphazard sticks. The game is teaching you, but it's not teaching you anything worth knowing. In roughly 40 hours of reading, Tolstoy covers the range of human existence: love, premature death, villainy, class, the limits of friendship, the crucible of debt, the idea of humans as helplessly caught in the tidal forces of history. Dark Souls leaves you with the intimate knowledge of when to roll out of the way of an ogre's club swing."
I know there are some games which do take time to cinematically set up characters and take the player through an emotional journey.  But I'd be interested to know if the final outcome, the moment of completion, has the same exhilaration as a something which is generally considered to be more passive, other than a basic sense of achievement [via].

Behind The Sofa, a limited edition collection of celebrities' childhood memories of Doctor Who

TV Since we're on the subject of my obsessions, it'd be remiss of me not to plug friend of the blog Steve Berry's new charity effort, Behind The Sofa, a limited edition collection of celebrities' childhood memories of Doctor Who produced in memory of his Mum in aid of Alzheimer's Research UK.

He's been working hard on Twitter and elsewhere collecting contributors and the list is fabulously impressive and includes Charlie Brooker, Chris Chibball, Chris Bidmead, David Quantick, Gary Russell, Jac Rayner, Jason Arnopp, James Moran, Jenny Colgan, Jon Culshaw, Josie Long, Konnie Huq, Lynda Bellingham, Mal Young, Marc Platt, Mitch Benn, Neil Gaiman, Nev Fountain, Nicholas Parsons, Nicola Bryant, Paul Cornell, Sarah Greene, Shaun Dingwall, Stephen Gallagher, Terry Dicks and Tracy Ann Oberman.

There are loads of purchasing options, but the basics are £4.99 for an ebook, £14.99 plus postage for the hardback.  Pre-ordering is open now.  Go to it.

"an on-screen tiff between members of The Three Degrees"

Music Last night's documentary about girl groups,  I'm in a Girl Group! was a bit of a mess, throwing random archive footage, animations, anecdotes and an eccentric musical selection against a wall and hoping some of it stuck but did at least offer some fascinating insights, not least that Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles was stark naked when she recorded the vocal to Eternal Flame and Atomic Kitten had cat fights over Kerry Katona appearing in The Chums section of SM:TV Live.

Despite not warranting a mention in the producers blog, all three of the "Sugababes" turned up on screen together as well as a solo turn from Keisha and the results were pretty revealing.  At one point, Heidi, Amelle and Jade offered some close harmony which if it had been utilised might have meant Sweet 7 sold a few more copies.  All four cropped up throughout but the tortured history of the group was covered in some length towards the end (some length in this documentary meaning about three minutes).

Pointedly beginning with an on-screen tiff between members of The Three Degrees over the order in which they joined and left, the "Sugababes" were clearly asked why they were still here.  "I think that's what helped the band last so long" Heidi answered not looking entirely convinced herself, shuffling in her sequins, "It's just a new voice, a new personality comin' in."  Cut to Keisha in surprisingly agreeable mood:  "Whoever wants to continue singing under the same Sugababes, if it makes you happy, why not."

But wait.  Heidi's building up steam:  "Like, I've been in the group for ten years, Amelle's been in it for six, Jade's been in it for two.  So we've been that history of building that name."  It's not hard to have some sympathy for Heidi, who having been in a group for a decade is now in a position of having to justify her place in what's now the butt of a few jokes.  Perhaps the quality of their music had kept pace with changes in the group we'd all be looking at this new iteration more fondly.

Or perhaps its just that the original members make their case so well.  The show's editing allowed Keisha to finally put the knife in:  "I would prefer to remember it, from when we first started, going in and bustin' our butts to make a record and that to me, like whenever I see Mutya, whenever we sing together, whenever I hear our voices together, and with Siobhan's as well, I feel like a Sugababe."  Looks off-screen to the researchers.  "You don't think I'm sounding bitchy do you?"

Well, yes, a bit, but it's ok.  Keisha was actually live tweeting during the programme and during that quote, she said "Love you S&M xxx"  Today, she retweeted this comment, "Just caught up on last night's Pop Life. You came across really well… looking forward to the reunion :) x"  If that's not a non-confirmation confirmation of said reunion, I don't know what is.

Two other things of note.

Firstly how the voice over described the Sugababes as "regenerating again and again like pop Time Lords" which probably explains my slightly ironic obsession and secondly the juxtaposition of the Spice Girls just before the section on the Sugababes which led to me realising something for the first time in over ten years.  I've often wondered what the inspiration might be behind an eccentric name like the Sugababes.  Well ...


Didn't look very far, did they?  Original manager Ron Tom first called them Sugababies.  London Records tweeked it to Sugababes [source].  Either way this has been staring me in the face for over a decade.  Hmm.

Afterwards, an accompanying Top of the Pops 2 covered most of the groups featured in the documentary, plus a few more.  Here's a Spotify playlist so you can catch up.

5/3/2012 Someone's uploaded video of the Sugababes bit up to YouTube.

"the writer, former resistance fighter and film director"

Film There's a long, engrossing, good old fashioned interview in yesterday's Observer with Claude Lanzmann, the "the writer, former resistance fighter and film director" who amongst many, many other things (he's the kind of man who proves The Indiana Jones Chronicles isn't that unlikely) produced Shoah, the epic Holocaust documentary and one of the few works which could in any way be described as essential viewing for anyone interested in either film or history.  He reveals to interviewer Ed Vulliamy something of his process:
"I had to know as much as I could before shooting anything, in order to help them talk in front of camera. The act of shooting is to create something in itself, that cannot be foreseen – and I could not foresee the moment when Bomba suddenly broke." It is a fearsome, indescribable moment, when the "skin" begins to crack before our eyes, between the face and voice of the barber, and what he knows – yet apparently not so; Bomba survived not only Treblinka, but the telling of Treblinka.

"In the beginning, he talked in a cold manner, as if it did not happen to him, but to someone else. I had to stop that, and bring him back to talking about what he did, to talk about himself. But one has to be on permanent alarm in such talk, as the tension grows, and we cannot be sure what will happen – this is not theatre, this is real."
Lanzmann talks also about Shoah's original screenings which with its nine hour running time mostly consistenting of shots of the concentration camps and close-ups of victims, witnesses and perpetrators must have been an intimidating prospect.  Even on dvd, it's a captivating, emotionally draining experience.  People had to take breaks.  But they always returned.