Spoilers below for certain elements from Amazon's new comedic action-drama Hunters.
Last year, whenever the Amazon original series Hunters got initially dubbed "Al Pacino's darkly comedic Nazi-hunting drama," it seemed destined to strike any number of controversial nerves with audiences. Sure enough, the show's debut drew some pointedly harsh criticisms from Germany's official Auschwitz Memorial, which had a particular problem with the "human chess game" portrayed in the series premiere. In response, Hunters' creator David Weill defended both the show and the decision to play off of that specific sequence.
David Weill had previously explained that his grandmother's harrowing experiences as a prisoner during World War II were his biggest inspirations for bringing Hunters to life, and he again spoke of her in his response to the Auschwitz Memorial's denunciation. In his words:
For David Weill, creating the 1970s-set Hunters wasn't about telling the most salacious and controversial Nazi stories, nor about exploiting the tragedies and tribulations of any real-life Holocaust victims. In part, he created the show to keep the conversation going about the monstrous travesties that Jewish citizens and more suffered in Auschwitz and other camps. Even if some of Hunters' most disturbing moments intentionally weren't entirely based on true accounts.
In the full statement from David Weill (via Variety), he fully cops to the fact that Hunters' horrifying chess game wasn't real, and further explains why the series chose to created new methods of Nazi torture.
In the eyes of Hunters' creator, it would have been even more dishonorable to Holocaust victims if the Amazon series had dramatized any of the legitimate forms of pain and punishment that Nazis put millions of people through. After all, seeing something specific to one's own history in that respect would be extremely triggering, so Weill & Co. decided to use fabricated examples like the chess match, despite the fact that some viewers might be even more put off by the concocted torture game.
You can check out the Auschwitz Memorial's original post below, though the Twitter account didn't limit its output to just that one message.
During this year's Television Critics Association winter press tour, CinemaBlend spoke with Hunters' creator David Weill, along with writer and executive producer Nikki Toscano. During that interview, Toscano and Weill told me they took extensive care when handling any scenes that dealt with flashback timelines. In their words:
To his point, Hunters' chess match and other uncomfortable sequences aren't played explicitly to capitalize on how frightened and pained the victims are, but rather to highlight the overall sadism and turpitude. In his reply statement, David Weill had also brought up the point about the camp prisoners number tattoos, further proving that Hunters strove not to step on anyone's toes, so to speak, with its historical depictions.
Viewers will undoubtedly debate just how gratuitous some of Hunters' dark and deadly scenes are, regardless of what the creator and show producers intended with the material. Perhaps if the comic book-esque narrative had angled its Holocaust depictions in ways that didn't compare to The Boys' over-the-top violence and bloodshed, public reactions also might have been slightly less extreme. Or maybe not.
Hunters Season 1 is currently available to stream in full on Amazon. While waiting to hear about Season 2's chances, check out how the Hunters cast answered the "time travel to kill Adolf Hitler" question. To see what other shows are heading to streaming and beyond in the first chunk of 2020, head to our Winter and Spring TV premiere schedule.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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