Gray Matter

Gray Matter
Directed by: Joe Berlinger

Just when you thought all of the horrors of the holocaust were exposed, in 2002 the brains of over seven hundred children were finally given a proper burial in Vienna. As it turns out, the brains came from handi-capped children unwittingly involved in an unbelievable Nazi experiment to determine the cause of deformities and stop them at the source. Where?s Indiana Jones when you need him? Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger flew to Vienna in 2002 to document the massive burial and do some investigating into what is one of the most disturbing stories to come from the holocaust.

At this point, Berlinger is probably best known for his critically acclaimed documentary Paradise Lost, in which his investigation into the conviction of three teens raised some serious questions about the lack of evidence that put the suspected child killers behind bars. More recently, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster managed to entertain even non-metallica fans. Although Gray Matter was made for TV and clocks in at just under an hour long, it treats the subject matter with as much respect as?.well, metallica?s writing and recording of St.Anger? That?s a good thing by the way.

Berlinger puts his investigative skills at work in the search for Heinrich Gross, the head doctor of the Nazi run Spiegelgrund mental hospital in which these experiments took place. As it turns out, Gross is not only still alive and well, but apparently living comfortably off of financial support from the Austrian government. While finding the doctor proves much harder then expected, Berlinger does manage to gain some incredible access to the now reformed Spiegelgrund hospital, including the rooms in which the actual brains were kept. A series of interviews and the analysis of evidence has led to the belief that experimentation may have continued on the brains until as late as 1998.

The difference between this and Berlinger?s past work is that he plays a much larger role in the movie, appearing on camera for most of the film. We follow him as a filmmaker on his journey to confront Dr.Gross. I suppose you could say it?s a Michael Moore-style investigation, however the difference is there aren?t really two sides of the story. There?s no question that Gross took part in a horrible atrocity and remains unpunished for what he?s done, and the fact that the government not only supports him but occasionally uses him as a forensics expert in supreme court trials is equally as disturbing.

I guess it?s hard to say holocaust films are overdone. It?s a part of history, and the films it has produced should be looked at more as documentation rather then forms of entertainment. As long as stories such as this keep popping up, there will always be room for films like Gray Matter to remind us what people are capable of. — Jay C.