Part of the artificial-creature series encompassing Der Golem (1914 and 1920), Alraune (1918, 1928, 1930) and Metropolis (1926), 'Homunculus' was the most popular serial in Germany during ... See full summary »
THE REVENGE OF THE HOMUNCULUS: 'I am not a man like the others.'
This is apparently the only part of the six-part serial HOMUNCULUS to survive in anything approaching its entirety, in a very poor quality print with German titles, which ends suddenly and is then succeeded by fragments of Part 5 and Part 3, which has Czech titles. The latter contains the famous scene of the burning windmill which was copied in FRANKENSTEIN (1931). A few people such as myself have been able to obtain DVDs of an off-the-air recording of this patchy material. The German titles are magnified to such an extent that they spill off both sides of the screen, so that it is only possible in most cases to read the middle words of the sentences, which does not aid comprehension of the confusing and complex story. However, this film is of the greatest importance and should be more widely known. There can be no doubt whatever that the powerful and commanding performance of the Danish actor Olaf Foenss as the Homunculus (who in the story takes the alias of Richard Ortmann in order to disguise his origins and pretend to be a normal man 'like the others') and the horrifying tale of the disasters he wreaks upon the world in the pursuit of his 'Will', directly inspired Adolf Hitler. You only have to watch the way Foenns moves his arms and hands, his stance, his stern expression, his impassive ruthlessness, his lack of any human compassion as he speaks to a crowd in this film, to recognise the exact motions, method, and mannerisms of Hitler at a Nazi rally. It is known that Hitler not only rehearsed regularly in front of mirrors, he took long and painful lessons of instruction early in his career from ham actors and stage performers. But the single most importance influence upon Hitler's public persona appears to be that of Foenns as the Homunculus in this serial. There are so many similarities in the career of the Homunculus and Hitler: both start world wars, both devastate the earth and leave cities in ruins, both are incapable of normal human feelings, both stir up riots and dissension amongst the public as a pretext for seizing supreme dictatorial power. In fact, the character Margot in Part IV who tells the Homunculus that she will willingly die for him and enslaves herself to him as a master, is even mirrored in Eva Braun. Both the Homunculus and Hitler are 'alone' as larger than life and heroic figures, surrounded by stormy elements, standing silhouetted against the sunset, misunderstood and without friends, but coldly and implacably imposing their will upon mankind, which they hate. And both share one aim above all things: 'Die Vernichtung der Menschheit' ('The Annihilation of Mankind'), which is actually the title of Part V of the serial. The German word 'Vernichtung' is a very strong word indeed. It is the very word which was used by Hitler and Himmler to describe 'the Final Solution' of the Jewish problem: the total annihilation of the Jews. Hitler obviously wished to be the Homunuclus, and did become him. It is essential for us to grasp this fact if we are to understand Hitler, and it is essential to understand Hitler in order to try to prevent another Hitler, or should I say, another Homunculus. The key to the Homunculus is that he has no compassionate emotions. He is always raging about the fact that he 'cannot love' because he is 'not a man like the others', but is only an artificial creature made in the laboratory. He thinks he wants to be able to love, and resents the fact that he cannot, but in fact he is not really without human emotions as he imagines himself to be, since he is able to hate with all the force of a tsunami. And his pride is higher than the highest mountain. What even the Homunculus himself does not grasp is that he can hate more than any human. And it was above all in this that Hitler wished to imitate and become the Homunculus. Sigfried Kracauer suggested long ago in 1947, in his book FROM CALAGARI TO Hitler, that HOMUNCULUS had influenced Hitler and the leading Nazis. The crucial importance of HOMUNCULUS for our understanding the events of the 20th century makes it all the stranger that no complete print of this serial film survives. Were they all destroyed on purpose? HOMUNCULUS was the most popular film series ever made in Germany. The whole country was excited by it. Everyone saw it and was talking about it. How then can there be no copy of it? The Homunculus was Hitler, and the German public saw and loved him as early as 1916 and wanted him. Ever willing to oblige, the puny homunculus Adolf Shickelgrueber also adopted an alias, the name of Adolf Hitler, and duly made himself into what Germany wanted. He was not enormously tall like Olaf Foenss, and he insisted on wearing a silly moustache, unlike the clean-shaven Foenss. But he had two things that even the Homunculus lacked: the most evil eyes in the world, and the advantage of not being confined to a fantasy film series. For Hitler was really alive and could really do those things. And he did them. And everybody in Germany had been prepared, was waiting for him when he came, and they loved it. Here at last was someone prepared to enact the deepest and darkest fantasies of the diseased German collective mind: an implacable, unfeeling, relentless 'uebermensch' (super-man), who would despise compassion and worship brute force, who would pursue the same desire as the Homunculus: 'Die Vernichtung der Menschheit', starting with the 'unter-Menschen' such as the Jews, and then wiping out whole cities, starting a world war, and carrying violence and force to their ultimate sadistic and orgasmic Wagnerian apotheosis: a true 'twilight of the gods'. Only a homunculus could do it, so Hitler obliged.
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