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Anne

Movies about the Holocaust

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Hi,

Ron asked me about films about the Holocaust that made a mark on me, and he suggested to open a new thread.

http://promontoryarts.com/viewtopic.php?t=...er=asc&start=60

The answer is that I saw quite a lot of them, as "Schindler's List" (dir. Claude Lanzmann) and others.

In "Schindler's List", the main actor Liam Neeson, left on me a real impression!

However, the ones that really transmitted the tragedy without too much sentimentalism are: "Night & Fog" ("Nuit & Brouillard"), dir. Alain Resnaisain

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Les Miserables Du Vingtieme Siecle is definitely worth watching. It helps to have a good idea of the story of Les Miserables, but since it is retold as the 20th Century story takes place, it's not absolutely necessary.

If Life Is Beautiful was a disappointment, how do you feel about Jakob the Liar (if you've seen it)? I think Jakob was filmed first, but since it came out about the same time Life did, it was more easily dismissed.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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In \"Schindler's List\", the main actor Liam Neeson, left on me a real impression!

Very powerful. It's not unusual for me to cry at a movie, but rarely have I sobbed the way I did through this one. I'm not sure what it would take to get me to watch it a second time - even though I count it one of my ten favourite films.

However, the ones that really transmitted the tragedy without too much sentimentalism are: \"Night & Fog\" (\"Nuit & Brouillard\"), dir. Alain Resnaisain


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Is this the place where one says that perhaps the only Billy Graham ever made that was worth watching was the film adaptation of Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place?

Darrel Manson wrote:

: I think Jakob was filmed first, but since it came out about the same time

: Life did, it was more easily dismissed.

There were two versions of Jakob, actually -- one in 1975 and one in 1999, the latter of which came out one year after Life Is Beautiful. Interestingly enough, Armin Mueller-Stahl is in BOTH versions of the film. I reviewed the 1999 film here.

Probably the most brilliant review I have seen of Life Is Beautiful is Mike D'Angelo's. I'm not saying it's necessarily the most CORRECT review, but it is certainly the most BRILLIANT review ("What it is, for those willing to look beyond the relentlessly inspiring surface, is a pointed, extremely disturbing parable about the human capacity for denial; despite the apparently triumphant conclusion, it's about as uplifting as an express elevator to Hell").


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'll second the Lelouch Miserable. While following the original story, it manages to touch on all of the elements that have entered the legend of WW II European home front. It has the feel of Sinatra or Billie Holliday recasting a song as if they wrote it themselves. And The Hidingplace. Excellent flick, but of a different cast. Unique film.


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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I guess this is the place to say I disagree with the criticism of Life is Beautiful. True, the second half is far from a realistic or plausible picture of life in a concentration camp. For that matter, the first half is far from a realistic or plausible depiction of wooing a woman. But I think it is a mistake to interpret the film as making out that the Holocaust was not really so bad, or that (not that anyone here has quite said this) a positive attitude can conquer all obstacles. In its own way, the film does acknowledge the horror, and indeed the banality, of evil. To wit:

    It's perhaps worth noting that Roberto Benigni's father Luigi, a farmer, carpenter, and bricklayer, was a prisoner in a Nazi labor camp from 1943 to 1945, and later told Roberto and other family members stories of the camp, defusing the horror with humor to protect them from the full brunt of what he had really suffered. Obviously Roberto, who was born in the early 50s, wasn't in the camp with his father, but the film depicts in an allegorical way his father's way of shielding his son from the horror of the camps. Even so, Benigni claims (quite credibly, for those who have had similar creative experiences) that it wasn't until production of Life Is Beautiful was actually underway that he realized that he was making a tribute to his father's experiences.

    FWIW, in 1998 Israel invited Benigni to screen the film at the Jerusalem Film Festival, where he received a special commendation from the mayor of Jerusalem for "furthering the universal understanding of Jewish history." And, of course, he was also invited to the Vatican for a special screening of the film for John Paul II.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Thanks for posting that, SDG...

Without downplaying the importance of Schindler's List, Shoah, the Pianist, and Night and Fog, I really dug Life Is Beautiful, altho I agree that it didn't go into greater detail on the Holocaust as it should. I believe that Benigni was working on the assumption that we all knew of the Holocaust, and used that as a springboard to his "fable"--his thesis that comedy can be a defense mechanism, even under the most horrific conditions.

Understand that Schindler's List is flawed, too. Spielberg cannot completely rid himself of the storytelling conventions that have cemented his genius. For example, he brings us into that-which-we-think-is a gas chamber, only to reveal that it was a shower stall, and that would prevent the audience from never recoverring from such a horrific incident, having characters we care about stick it thru to the end.

Night and Fog is probably as pure a film as you can get on the Holocaust. Shoah, which I haven't seen, consists entirely of testimonials. The Pianist, also a great film, shows another side to the war, even as it leaves out the holocaust entirely, which was never part of the lead protagonists' testimony anyway.

I haven't seen Sophie's Choice, but this qualifies, doesn't it?

Also, and I may be in the great minority here, but "Triumph of the Will" ought to be required watching as the flip-side to all of this. It may help explain the lure as to how normal, rational people got swept up in such misguided zeal.

Nick


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Childhood memory: My first film about the holocaust was Escape from Sobibor. I've not seen it since I've grown in my understanding of film, but I DO remember it had quite and impact on me.

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So, SDG, what do you make of D'Angelo's critique of Life Is Beautiful? You don't seem to have replied to it in your post above.

Nick Alexander wrote:

: Understand that Schindler's List is flawed, too. Spielberg cannot

: completely rid himself of the storytelling conventions that have cemented

: his genius. For example, he brings us into that-which-we-think-is a gas

: chamber, only to reveal that it was a shower stall, and that would

: prevent the audience from never recoverring from such a horrific

: incident, having characters we care about stick it thru to the end.

It has been over ten years since I saw Schindler's List now, but I remember thinking that I didn't really feel much suspense during that film, precisely because it was based on the memory of SURVIVORS and it therefore stood to reason that all the characters that Spielberg actually develops over the course of the film would make it through to the end.

: The Pianist, also a great film, shows another side to the war, even as it

: leaves out the holocaust entirely, which was never part of the lead

: protagonists' testimony anyway.

Um, The Pianist may never show the concentration camps, but I think it DOES show "the Holocaust", which would include the deportation of Jews in cattle cars and so forth, no? I would say the word applies to the full range of activities involved in the Nazi genocide.

: Also, and I may be in the great minority here, but "Triumph of the Will"

: ought to be required watching as the flip-side to all of this. It may help

: explain the lure as to how normal, rational people got swept up in such

: misguided zeal.

Possibly. But that film is based on a Nazi meeting staged in, what, 1934 or so? That was pretty darn early in Hitler's regime. I don't know if people back then really knew just how far he was going to take his bigotry (nor can I remember if it even comes up in that film).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Godard's not so subtle criticism of Spielberg's film on the holocaust in In Praise of Love is compelling. Certainly it is marked with Godard's tendency to be over the top, but his point is cogent nonetheless. Filmed narratives such as the one Speilberg put together for that movie do nothing but conceal from us what something like Resnais' Night and Fog accurately expose.

And then he tosses in the anecdote that Schindler's widow still lives in poverty somewhere even though Spielberg's movie made a bundle.

Louis Malle's Au Revoir Les Enfants is a great film. It doesn't take place in the concentration camps, but it deals with children's perceptions of the atrocities as they began to come to life. It really identifies the "lost childhoods" of the children that had to witness what was going on.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: Understand that Schindler's List is flawed, too. Spielberg cannot

: completely rid himself of the storytelling conventions that have cemented

: his genius. For example, he brings us into that-which-we-think-is a gas

: chamber, only to reveal that it was a shower stall, and that would

: prevent the audience from never recoverring from such a horrific

: incident, having characters we care about stick it thru to the end.

It has been over ten years since I saw Schindler's List now, but I remember thinking that I didn't really feel much suspense during that film, precisely because it was based on the memory of SURVIVORS and it therefore stood to reason that all the characters that Spielberg actually develops over the course of the film would make it through to the end

Firstly, nobody really knew that it was focusing on the survivors until the end. Secondly, that explains the lack of any significant characters' untimely deaths. Thirdly, that fact alone makes the whole "shower sequence" all the more inappropriate--it's played with such build-up, then when discovered it wasn't a gas chamber at all, we get some sort of cinematic release. Frankly, it's a cop-out, and yet if Spielberg had played it thru to its logical conclusion, the audience might not have recovered.

: The Pianist, also a great film, shows another side to the war, even as it

: leaves out the holocaust entirely, which was never part of the lead

: protagonists' testimony anyway.

Um, The Pianist may never show the concentration camps, but I think it DOES show \"the Holocaust\", which would include the deportation of Jews in cattle cars and so forth, no?  I would say the word applies to the full range of activities involved in the Nazi genocide.

If you go by that definition, then by all means.

: Also, and I may be in the great minority here, but \"Triumph of the Will\"

: ought to be required watching as the flip-side to all of this. It may help

: explain the lure as to how normal, rational people got swept up in such

: misguided zeal.

Possibly.  But that film is based on a Nazi meeting staged in, what, 1934 or so?  That was pretty darn early in Hitler's regime.  I don't know if people back then really knew just how far he was going to take his bigotry (nor can I remember if it even comes up in that film).

Bigotry/Anti-Semitism wouldn't come up in that film. That's the point. It's the subtext. It's the nice, cool, refreshing water in the pot on the stove before the frog jumps in.

Nick


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Do movies about Holocaust DENIERS count? If so, there is Errol Morris's Mr. Death, which I wrote about for Books & Culture here (alas, you have to pay to read beyond the first paragraph, now).

One Holocaust movie that I really liked, though it deals with Jews in hiding and not with concentration camps, per se, was the Czech film Divided We Fall, which I reviewed here. There's some interesting religious symbolism in this film.

Nick Alexander wrote:

: Firstly, nobody really knew that it was focusing on the survivors until the end.

Well, somehow *I* had an inkling, at least.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Childhood memory:  My first film about the holocaust was Escape from Sobibor.  I've not seen it since I've grown in my understanding of film, but I DO remember it had quite and impact on me.

Hey, I liked it as an adult when I saw it. Considering it was made for TV, it spares nothing with respect to the way Jews were treated in such camps (I'm assuming that theatrical films of the last 35 years can be way more unsparing), but also has the feel of a good caper movie with the added tension of the fact that the "caper" is escape from a death camp. Almost worthy of The Great Escape (no Steve McQueen and James Coburn has to count for something).


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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So, SDG, what do you make of D'Angelo's critique of Life Is Beautiful?  You don't seem to have replied to it in your post above.

I agree with parts of it. I agree that the label "Holocaust comedy" is wretchedly wrong, and that the second half of the film is not, in fact, intended to be funny or uplifting (except in small bits, as when Guido manages to broadcast a message to Dora, or to play her an excerpt from the opera they attended together). I also agree that the film doesn't buy into the Schopenhauerian mind-power thing, that it raises the issue but ultimately rejects it, and that the film is in no way a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit, or anything so uplifting as all that. I agree, too, that the "We won!" at the end is at least in part grimly ironic, though clearly the film's ending is not without hope. I even think that his notion that Benigni's film exemplifies the banality and absurdity of the evil of the Holocaust by making sense of it only as a nonsense game is a fair point.

Yet when D'Angelo describes how he sat "aghast at the sight of a man stubbornly refusing to accept the nightmare in which he'd suddenly found himself," I have to wonder if we saw the same film. Who says Guido refused to accept the nightmare? Again, I refer the viewer to the scenes of forced labor, the mountain of bodies, Dr. Lessing's pathetic pleas for Guido's "help," etc. Guido DID accept the nightmare. His desperate clowning was not for his OWN benefit, but that of his son.

Also, while it IS true "that little Giosue is one lucky sonofabitch," it is NOT true "that his continued existence on the planet is no thanks to dear deluded Dad." True, Guido's desperate Schopenhaeurian gesticulations had nothing to do with the guards not discovering Giosue in the little shed. (It's not at all clear to me that the course of action D'Angelo suggests, trying to "save his son by calling attention to himself," would necessarily have worked any better. Why should the guards not have shot Guido and still checked the shed afterwards? Isn't it even possible that the sight of a Jew suddenly "calling attention to himself" would make the guards suspicious and provoke an even more thorough search?) But plainly Guido does save his son's life a dozen times over, not least in the scene in the German kitchen where he teaches all the German children how to say "Grazie."

Basically, it seems to me that there are four ways to take the film, each of which involves a different take on the title:

    The first two seem too negative for the hopeful tone with which the film ends. The third, however, seems too positive, especially in light of the tragic element in the end as well as the fact that no amount of positive thinking can make Guido's anvils less heavy or his separation from Dora less painful. I say that Life is Beautiful is neither a crushing tragedy nor a tale of the triumph of the human spirit, for Guido neither triumphs nor is crushed. Thus, the fourth interpretation seems the best: Life truly is beautiful, not in a sense that obliterates the horror of suffering, but in the sense that each day is always a gift, even if lived under dreadful circumstances.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Speaking of the Holocaust, has anyone seen The Grey Zone? I walked out of that movie ashamed to be counted as a member of the human race - a species that could do such things to one another. For those who haven't seen the film, it's about the Jews in the concentration camps who (for a few more months of life) would help the Nazis, serving as slaves, calming their fellow Jews as they led them into the gas chambers. The movie asks the question, what would you do for just a little more life?

The only redeeming feature of the movie is that it centers around these enslaved Jews' plan to organize a revolt at the camp with the aim of destroying one of the ovens there. That they have to do their job and help kill more people while the slow work of building up supplies is patiently done in secret tears them apart inside and sometimes that impossible inner struggle breaks out into the open in crazed outbursts of violent, meaningless rage.

As an aside, I don't know how the casting director ever got around to calling David (Eight-Legged-Freaks) Arquette but surprisingly, he puts in a powerful performance. I expected him to look out of place or out of his league but he fit right into the story.

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The only Holocaust film I remember seeing offhand was Schindler's List, which I have been using in the classroom recently.

The scenes of violence have been particularly effective. Some students (in an all-boys school) fail to take the Holocaust seriously, but once the film is on, suddenly the smirks give way to blank stares. Typical comment is, "Sir, I didn't realize it was that bad."

I tend to use a selection of scenes, beginning with the opening, which I like because a) it has the religious connection (I teach Religious Ed), and cool.gif the scene where the Jews are registering makes the Holocaust more personal by naming actual names -- I can point out to the boys that perhaps people around the world are watching the film and can actually recognize the names as those of their ancestors, their grandparents, parents, family friends, perhaps.

Then I show the scene about fifteen minutes in where people are being forced from their homes and into the ghettos. There are also a few neat religious references then.

Lastly, I'll show the liquidation of the ghetto (about 55 minutes in, I believe). It begins with Amon Goeth's speech, which sums up well the intent of the Nazis to systematically destroy the Jewish people.

These three scenes also highlight the historical progression the Nazi persecution of the Jews took -- beginning with having them register, then out of their homes and into the ghettos, then out of the ghettos and either killed or into the camps.


Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

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What made the Holocaust most real for me was not film, but Elie Wiesel's Night. Had to read it in seminary to get an idea of the Exile's effect. Short, quick read, powerful.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I'm a little late in saying this, but welcome, Annie. I'm glad you're here, and it's nice to get your insight.

You're not kidding about Night, Darrel. That one and the Maus graphic novels will forever haunt me.

But back to film.

A couple I've seen that no one has mentioned are Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.

Wallenberg, played by Stellan Skarsg

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Yep, I saw Garden of the Finzi-Continis on the big screen about six to eight years ago. I remember liking it, though I don't remember it in great detail.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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What made the Holocaust most real for me was not film, but Elie Wiesel's Night....  

The most thought-provoking (as opposed to emotion-provoking?) book I've read on the holocaust - and I've read zillions - was Wiesel's SUNFLOWER. Anybody know that one. Wiesel sets out a relatively simple little (well, not really) story about a Jewish man and a dying German soldier in a WW2 hospital, then has dozens of writers, theologians, philosophers, etc write about the moral implications of the story. There is a brain-scrambler.


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I'm a little late in saying this, but welcome, Annie. I'm glad you're here, and it's nice to get your insight.

Thanks Diane. However, I'm not sure if I'll be able to follow always the discussion here, as my English is quite limited, and not everything I can understand. But thanks anyway.

A couple I've seen that no one has mentioned are Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.

Diane

I heard about Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg, but didn't have the chance to watch it.

About The Garden of the Finzi-Continis., I saw it many years ago (in my youth years), and I do remember it. It made the mark on me, that Hitler didn't make any distinction about the quality of Jews he sent to death. For him ALL were equal. ALL were condemned to death. sad.gif

Anyway, thanks again for your welcome smile.gif Sometimes I don't know how to deal with this subject, but I must admit that what helped me a lot (except of my Catholic faith), was the amazing book of Etty Hillesum. See this thread: http://promontoryarts.com/viewtopic.php?t=1586

Annie

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An interesting convergence.

Sunday we had no plan to go to a movie. But we were watching the DVD of Bride Flight, which has some post-Holocaust content. With about 30 minutes left, the power went out. When it didn't come back on, we decided to go see Sarah's Key which is very much a Holocaust film. Ame home after the movie and finished the first one.

(possible spoilers follow)

In Bride Flight Esther is a Holocaust survivor who, when she becomes pregnant, gives her child away because she doesn't want to bring up a child to be Jewish - it is too dangerous to be Jewish in this world.

In Sarah's Key after the war Sarah eventually comes to the US and marries. When she gives birth she immediately wants the child baptized, because it is too dangerous for a child to be Jewish in this world.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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<!--QuoteBegin--></span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td><b>QUOTE</b> </td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'><!--QuoteEBegin-->What made the Holocaust most real for me was not film, but Elie Wiesel's <i>Night</i>....  <!--QuoteEnd--></td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'><!--QuoteEEnd-->

The most thought-provoking (as opposed to emotion-provoking?) book I've read on the holocaust - and I've read zillions - was Wiesel's SUNFLOWER. Anybody know that one. Wiesel sets out a relatively simple little (well, not really) story about a Jewish man and a dying German soldier in a WW2 hospital, then has dozens of writers, theologians, philosophers, etc write about the moral implications of the story. <i>There</i> is a brain-scrambler.

Link to thread on the book The Sunflower

btw, it's by Simon Wiesenthal. Easy to confuse the names.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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