Marek Tomasz Pawlowski's collage-like documentary "The Touch of an Angel" tells the story of World War II survivor Henryk Schoenker, a Polish Jew from Oswiecim whose family fled from ghetto to ghetto, hiding place to hiding place, to escape the Nazi regime.
Schoenker's father, initially tasked by the Germans with arranging for Jews to immigrate legally to other countries, witnessed firsthand that policy tossed aside as countries refused to take in Jews while a grimmer fate took over. (The Nazis renamed Schoenker's hometown Auschwitz.)
Now deaf, Schoenker is an emotional, vigorous storyteller, recounting often through tears a series of near-death escapes, acts of kindness and upfront horrors — including witnessing the murder of family friend John Gottowt, an actor in F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu."
But Pawlowski, who films Schoenker revisiting many of these haunted locations in Poland, takes the regrettable license of larding his subject's testimony with unnecessary aesthetic fringe: excessive music, poorly filmed re-creations, archival footage augmented with sound effects, arty posed shots of Schoenker, and weirdest of all, collage animation like something from a schoolkid project on the Holocaust. It routinely undercuts the power of Schoenker's personal history, when his expressive voice and emotion give plenty already.
"The Touch of an Angel"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour.
Playing: Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.