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  • Writer's pictureJack Aling

Occupied City - Review (London Film Festival 2023)

Demolished. 2.5 / 5

Directed by Steve McQueen.

Two interlocking portraits: a door-to-door excavation of the Nazi occupation that still haunts Amsterdam, and a vivid journey through the last years of pandemic and protest.

Steve McQueen's Occupied City is an immersive tour of modern Amsterdam told through a haunting account of past lives. With no traditional structure, over 100 short stories are presented through vignettes of the city shot during the unprecedented COVID lockdowns and curfews - the first in Amsterdam since WWII.

Melanie Hyams ethereally narrates taking the audience around the city, presenting stories of life and death of the Jewish community in the city where 75% of the population was wiped out over World War II. Steve McQueen and cinematographer Lennert Hillege's coverage of everyday life in the city is a sight to behold. McQueen mentioned in a recent interview that he has enough footage to make a 36 hour cut.

Which comes to the elephant in the room - the four and a half hour runtime does feel like an endurance test especially when you have come to terms with the structure. Although I managed to power through the runtime, including a welcomed intermission, I can't help but feel that Occupied City would have more impact broken up as I was left feeling numb to compelling stories by the halfway point.

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