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also known as Quién mató a Walter Benjamin...

Who Killed Walter Benjamin?2005

  • 3.4
In September 1940, after seven years of exile, Walter Benjamin crosses the Pyrenees in a desperate attempt to escape the Nazis. According to the official version, Walter Benjamin did make it across the French-Spanish border successfully. But when he arrived in the Catalan town of Portbou, a sudden change in legislation impeded his entry into Spain and he was obliged to spend the night at a local hotel under the close vigilance of three guards, whose orders were to deport him the following morning. In utter despair, Benjamin took his own life, swallowing and overdose of morphine. The local doctor, however, declared it a natural death and Benjamin was given a Catholic burial in the municipal cemetery, under a wrong name. Did the doctor conceal some hidden cause of Benjamin’s death? Was there really a change of legislation? Was Walter Benjamin aware that Portbou was a pro-Franco town virtually occupied by the Nazis? WHO KILLED WALTER BENJAMIN? reaches for answers among the suspicious circumstances of his death. Giving at the same time, a portrait of a frontier town anchored between two fronts, constant witness of evasion, persecution and false hopes.

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"With persistence Mauas seizes new relevant details from witnesses of that time which until now has been ignored by the international Benjamin research." - Bettina Bremme, Die Tageszeitung


2 members like this review

The film largely assumes that viewers already know of Benjamin's importance as a thinker but does not establish the significance he holds in 20th century thought. Hence, the viewers do not get a sense of the potential wasted with his demise. However, the investigation reveals inconsistencies and irregularities in all the documents and accounts that relate to Benjamin's death and leaves the viewer with proliferating questions. It does not attempt to reconstruct what might have happened. Viewers are left with an image of a man possibly abandoned to his killers by those who were supposedly closest to him. Very disturbing.

Member Reviews (3)

The film largely assumes that viewers already know of Benjamin's importance as a thinker but does not establish the significance he holds in 20th century thought. Hence, the viewers do not get a sense of the potential wasted with his demise. However, the investigation reveals inconsistencies and irregularities in all the documents and accounts that relate to Benjamin's death and leaves the viewer with proliferating questions. It does not attempt to reconstruct what might have happened. Viewers are left with an image of a man possibly abandoned to his killers by those who were supposedly closest to him. Very disturbing.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

While this movie presents a very compelling case for not accepting the death of Walter Benjamin as a suicide ( ie. the official version of events),

it really fails to give most viewers any reason to care.

This film would have been far more effective if the profound nature of Benjamin's intellectual reach had been been more thoroughly examined.

In the vast tragedy of World War II the death of even just one person can be made to seem relevant if the story is told with sufficient pathos.

If he had lived, Walter Benjamin could well have grown into one of the 2oth century's most influential thinkers but no sense of the enormity of the loss that resulted from his early death is considered here.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Excellent and disturbing detective documentary. It brings up questions of "Why are official historians so quick to accept so-called established accounts of historical events when it is well known that history is written for the winners or dominant authority in a specific society? I sincerely wish there are intelligent and inquisitive historians that will stop being lazy and complacent and will make every effort to search for the truth on any subject.