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From his opening scene of ringed fingers running greedily over gems and
jewels to his pathetic cries for salvation at his hanging, the
"historically accurate" portrayal of Court Jew Suss Oppenheimer is a
brilliant work of film-propaganda and an eye-opening understanding of
the Nazi perspective. Except for the slobbery and entranced German Duke
caught under Oppenheimer's spell Germans come across as a clean,
clean shaven, proud, culturally profound and subjugated people,
oppressed by Oppenheimer's avaricious rule and his grant of Jews into
Württemberg. The classic elements of predator and prey, people versus
government, (and occasionally at the expense of art) good against evil
are employed to paint a masterpiece of propaganda, layering Oppenheimer
and the Jewish people with every conceivable ingredient of wickedness.
The film shows little patience (though not without artfulness) with portraying Oppenheimer as a devious Jew, giving up even his "despicable values" (shaving his beard) for his gluttonous ambitions. Through a short dialogue with a fellow Jew, it is clear that Oppenheimer is a clever character, adept with human manipulation and ready with some soothing and sly words for a quick fix in a tricky situation. He thus wins over the Duke by giving him what the Estate could not. From the soft, young flesh of the Württemberg women, to absolute power, Oppenheimer is always ready to provide the Duke all his evil desires. It is interesting to note that the film depicted the Duke as a skuzzy individual from the beginning, and did not show (what could have been) the gradual degenerative effect of Oppenheimer on him. This might have been done to maintain a sense of realism and integrity of the film's art, or .
"How can we ever defeat the Jew? He is so much cleverer than us."
"He is not cleverer, only more cunning."
This exchange between two German citizens, living under Oppenheimer's oppressive rule, reveals a common fear and sentiment shared by most Germans at the time. The Jews were thought to be anything but an unintelligent race, rather it was their cunning and desire to fulfill their "Lord's will" and "rule (the world) in secret," as the hunchbacked rabbi told Oppenheimer, is what truly frightened the Germans. Levi, Oppenheimer's right hand man, at times, even annoys Oppenheimer with his hyper-Jewish mores. His beady eyes, beard, side curls, black dress, and scratchy voice make him a freakish and chilling character, waiting to foil the fight of the Estate's citizens with his Talmudic logic and biting wit. Memorable images include Levi, eyes wide open, violently rubbing his ink-stained hands together while plotting the downfall of those against Oppenheimer, and Levi and Oppenheimer eavesdropping on a conversation behind a wall, surrounded by rats and insects. Beyond the murky physical images hanging over the Jews, Jude Suss brings a compelling psychological aspect into play, being careful to inform German viewers of Jew's parasitical nature, natural propensity towards evil and metropolitan sophistication, the near nihilistic forgoing of values from days gone by.
In most of the scenes filled with German characters, booming symphonies filter through the images filling them with grandeur. Contrasting this is Oppenheimer's introduction, a smart but stale dialogue between two conspirators, without any music at all. Music also plays an important role with the unison between Faber and Dorthea, two young lovers growing up while Oppenheimer is in power. Their love duets evoke nostalgia and even an innocence of long ago, or, life before the Jew. This is a direct mirror of Volkist philosophy, and the absence of pretty music in Jew occupied scenes is a powerful ignition to the subconscious.
Jude Suss climaxes to Faber's torture, Dorthea's rape and drowning, the death of the Duke, arrest of Oppenheimer and his hanging. The last moments of film are enwrapped in a slow snow fall focusing in on Faber's sorrow as a representation of the Jewish consequence. Although Oppenheimer is hanged and the Jews are forced to leave Württemberg, the director manages to inject the nagging question of "what if," into his audience. What if Oppenheimer was never let into Württemberg to begin with? What if the Estate had acted faster and seized control of Oppenheimer's power before it was too late? What if the Germans of 1940, longing for a land of language, culture and time before the imprisoning Judeo-Christian ideology, annihilated the Jewish race and lived the life they dreamed of?
I loved "Jud Suss," both the film and the character.
Loving this movie was disturbing. "Jud Suss" was commissioned and overseen by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister and Reich Plenipotentiary for Total War. The film was shown before Nazis began rounding up Jews. "Jud Suss" played a direct, horrific, role in the Holocaust. You can't talk about this film without that nightmare hovering over every word you say.
I ended up writing a long essay entitled "Loving Jud Suss." The essay is now linked from my homepage. I hope interested readers will have a look and share their thoughts. I'll try to convey the gist here.
First, this is a well-made, vintage, costume melodrama slash swashbuckler. If you like Golden Age, black-and-white, big budget, studio adaptations of popular novels set in the eighteenth century, chances are you could enjoy many aspects of this film: palace intrigue, fast pace, romance, period detail.
I watched "Jud Suss" as if on split screens. The Nazis want the viewer to see an amoral, crafty Jew who destroys the life of a German city, Stuttgart, by introducing ballet, flirtation, and parties, by instituting a tax to improve the region's poor roads, and by allowing Jews entry to the city. I resisted what the Nazis wanted me to see. I like ballet. I live in a state with toll roads; good roads have to be paid for somehow. I don't think that allowing Jews, or any minority, out of their ghetto and into previously segregated neighborhoods is a bad thing.
I could *also* see what the Nazis did not want me to see. I could see how the film lays bare the self pity, sense of personal victimization, and exaggerated view of the power of the other that is at the heart of racism and prejudice. The main German characters in "Jud Suss" are pathetic. Faber is a ninety-pound weakling and insufferable bigot. He can't even consummate a kiss, never mind a marriage, with his beloved, Dorothea. Dorothea is beautiful but simpleminded and insincere. She wants Suss but can't handle her own desire. Councilman Sturm, Rader, and Duke Karl Alexander are all obese, shouting, ineffectual old men. That Nazis held up blowhard Sturm and prissy bigot Faber as the heroes of the piece tells you how skewed and how foreign to our modern sensibilities was the Nazi value system.
In seeing both what the Nazis wanted me to see and what they did not want me to see, I could see the absurdity and ethical and intellectual bankruptcy of Nazi ideology. That exercise made this one of the most fascinating film watching experiences I've ever had.
Ferdinand Marian, as Joseph Suss-Oppenheimer, made this movie. He is on screen for almost the entire film; even when he is not, he is the super potent center of others' attention. Marian's is one of the most riveting, charismatic performances I've ever seen. I could not take my eyes off him from his first scene to the last.
Off-screen events add to the unforgettable quality of Marian's performance. The story is that Marian did not want to take this role, and was so distraught when Goebbels forced him into it that he got drunk and destroyed his own apartment with an ax. Marian died in a car accident, and the rumor is that he killed himself, because of this role and its horrible history.
All the principles involved in "Jud Suss" made some excuse or another to try to get out of it. Goebbels tightened the screws and forced them into it. They later claimed that they did everything they could to make Suss as sympathetic as possible under the circumstances.
I read Ferdinand Marian's "Jud Suss" as an unforgettably sympathetic character. Even as I was watching the film, even as I was seeing it on a split screen, with the Nazi version on one side and my own interpretation on another, I also saw the tumultuous surrounding events. I saw the real Joseph Suss Oppenheimer, an historical figure who was tortured and executed in eighteenth-century Stuttgart. His killers kept his body on display for six years. I saw Ferdinand Marian, the actor, forced to act in a film he wanted no part of. I saw Jud Suss, the character in the movie, a lone Jew surrounded by bigoted, narrow, primitive proto-Nazis who made his, and their own lives, a misery, because they insisted that only Jews could be so perverse as to bring culture, modernity, and eroticism to a decent, clean, lifeless German city. My sympathy overflowed for Suss the character, Marian the actor, and the historical Suss-Oppenheimer. A Nazi propaganda film achieved the feat of rendering the German characters in the film universally repulsive, and the one Jewish character irresistibly sympathetic. That being the case, it's all the more tragic that Marian ended his own life over this role.
Scholars emphasize the charisma and appeal of Marian's depiction. In fact, the director, Veit Harlan, reported that Marian received "baskets of love letters." It is more than a bit weird that one of the sexiest overtly Jewish characters in the history of cinema is a character in a Nazi propaganda film.
A couple of years ago, I saw this film in my history class. It's been
long, so I couldn't give a detailed summery of what exactly happened,
however, the plot wasn't what stayed with me anyway. What registered,
more than anything, was that this was a propaganda film intended to
convince the audience that Jews were evil. It is not that the villain -
whom I remember to be partly intriguing, partly repulsive - just
happens to be Jewish. The final scene makes it quite clear that he is
the way he is because he is Jewish. It's when the film abandons all
subtlety and decides to give its message a final hit with a hammer, to
assure it's been properly driven into the heads of the audience.
I find it quite impossible to judge this film under any other than the propaganda aspect. While it may be a decent film a far as technical apect are concerned, it is nothing anyone could watch purely for his or her amusement, at least not if they know about the historical background; and people in Germany are probably even more aware of this than anyone else. I cannot ignore that this film was meant to sow hatred, and nor do I want to. All other questions, whether the acting and directing were good or whether the dialogues were well-written, are of secondary importance to me. Certainly the film was well-made - how else would it have worked so well? - but even this doesn't make it into something watchable or entertaining.
One of the most notorious anti Semitic movies ever made, filmed in
Germany in 1940, under the close supervision of Nazi propaganda
minister Joseph Goebbels. This was based on a real case and a further
novel by Jewish author Lion Feuchtwanger - obviously, the Nazis
completely distorted the source material so that this film is
completely anti-Semitic. The movie was a huge success at its time
millions of Germans watched it and SS boss Heinrich Himmler made
viewing the movie mandatory for every member of his organization. Today
the film is banned in Germany.
In 18th century Germany, the foolish duke of Wurttenberg decides to make the Jewish businessman Joseph Suss Oppenheimmer his financial adviser. Soon disaster will come to the dukedom, in the form of a higher cost of living (under advice from Suss, the duke sharply rises all sort of taxes). Suss also advices the duke to let the Jews enter Wurttenberg (from where they were banned from residing). Eventually, the members of Wurttenberg council, decides to rise against the duke and his adviser.
Ironically, in some ways the message of the movie looks different today than originally intended. To a modern audience, the Germans in the movie are so naïve, ignorant and narrow minded that they seem off putting, while Suss appears to be, until he turns into a rapist and torturer toward the end, not such a bad guy, just a sharp, quick if a bit ethically loose businessman. Putting tolls in the roads of Wurttenberg doesn't look to be such a bad thing, while the politicians of the council opposing Suss seem uptight, arrogant and pompous. The character of Faber seems an unbearable, prejudiced young hothead, while his wife Dorothea, the Christian girl Suss strives for and that will be one of the causes of his downfall (played by Kristina Soderbaum, wife of director Veit Harlan) is so dumb and foolish, one feels she is not really worth the trouble. Even the portrayal of the rabbi of the community seems almost positive to a modern audience: he tells Suss to be very careful in his political dealings with the Germans, lest this backfire on the Jewish community. In this way, the movie takes for granted the anti Jewish prejudices of the German people of the day that we no longer take for granted. Ferdinand Marian gives an amazing multifaceted performance as the cunning but magnetic Suss, without him the movie would be far less powerful than it is. Finally, I give this movie a high rating because I think is very well made I certainly find its message hateful.
Watching this film provokes divided reactions. You can admire it for its expensive production values, acting, photography, and editing. Director Veit Harlan's use of crowd scenes are also impressive here as in his other films. 'Jud Sus' is comparable to the handsome Hollywood historical biopics of the time such as Warner Brother's 'The Life of Emile Zola' and others with Paul Muni. The big difference is you will detest 'Jud Suss' for its obvious message (unlike the 'Zola' film) which was to inflame anti-semitism and quash sympathy for Jews at a time when Germany was preparing to destroy them. The film's production history and aftermath is worth exploring. After the war Ferdinand Marian who played the title character supposedly committed suicide due to guilt over his role and Werner Krauss who portrayed several stereotypical Jews was blacklisted. Harlan was acquitted twice for war crimes and went on to make more films. History is still divided about Harlan's role in creating the film. Was he forced to make it or was he a willing co-conspirator who made it too good? There's a new documentary about Harlan that might provide answers: 'Veit Harlan: In the Shadow of Jud Suss' now on DVD>
This movie is a Nazi propaganda one, that presents itself as a movie
all based on true events, made under the command of Nazi propaganda
minister Joseph Goebbels. People involved with this movie were either
forced- or loyal to the Nazi cause, though lots of them denied that of
course later after the war, to avoid prosecution, such as director Veit
Harlan. Because of its propaganda themes and anti-semitic agenda the
movie is still banned in lots of countries.
It's a movie that not so delicately shows what should happen when you give Jews too much freedom and control. They take and then they take some more. All Jews in this movie are money-crazed and evil toward the common people. It's quite laughable really how black and white the movie with it's themes is. The contrasts are huge between the noble and German folks in this movie and the evil manipulating Jews.
But well, there is simply no denying it that as a movie this is a pretty good one. It got well made and the story, despite of its propaganda themes and wrongful intentions, is a quite solid and intriguing one.
It's a movie that is set in 18th century Germany. This means that the movie also gets filled with some splendid looking sets and costumes. The movie probably wasn't a very cheap one to make. The movie its look certainly uplifts the whole movie.
Quite surprising to see Werner Krauss in this movie as well, who was like one of the biggest German movie stars of early cinema during the '20's. He plays the very stereotypical Jewish characters Rabbi Loew and Sekretar Levy. Appearantly he developed a Nazi ideology when Adolf Hitler came to power, which was his reason for appearing in this movie. Being the great and legendary actor that he was, he was pretty much forgiven later on, unlike many other actors and directors who's careers got pretty much ruined after the war had ended. Heinrich George for instance ended up in a Soviet concentration camp after the war and died there, only one year later.
I simply judge this movie as a movie, though in 1940 it would had probably only made me mad.
This film can be viewed from several different angles, and it indeed is. First of all, it's by no means a bad film, meaning - it's very aptly directed, and the narrative runs smoothly. Some of the leading actors are very good, especially Ferdinand Marian, who doesn't stoop to anything banal and draws us a fascinating portrait of a man you can both hate and love. Then there are the shots where German people have had enough of his cunning mastermind, and take justice in their own hands. Of course, when one is immersed in the film, you would do the same. Which means, the film works as it is meant. But then - one is always allowed to ask oneself whether it was impossible for this kind of thing to happen in 1730s Germany. I think it wasn't. I think we can watch this film, and hate the bad guy, without automatically deciding to hate every Jew in the world. After all, there are hundreds of films produced in Hollywood, where the bad guy is Russian or who ever. I do think we as human race are sufficiently grown to leave our emotions in the cinema auditorium and not be influenced by something that we know is not right.
"Jud Süß" is overall a well-made, sometimes brilliant, occasionally
hammy, movie. It's plausible that it served its intended function, to
promote antisemitism, beautifully in its time. The movie came out in
1940, about one year after the beginning of the war, about five years
after the Nuremberg race laws, and about two years before the Wannsee
Conference. Considering the enormous, fanatical hatred of the Nazis
against jews, the movie's antisemitism comes across as surprisingly
subtle. Flanked by the occasional antisemitic outburst ("There are no
hostels for jews in Stuttgart") the movie builds a convincing
psychogram of a perpetrator and leaves all its great performances to
its antiheroes, while the good guys come across as pale, square and
The movie is surprising in many aspects and allows perplexing insights into the Nazi mindframe. The faulty emperor (played by Heinrich George) is described as fat, vain and sybaritic (in his fantasy uniform he's the spitting image of Goering) and also as a militarist and a megalomaniac, who has lost contact with the needs of his people (Hitler comes to mind). When Süss is eventually hanged, he comes across not so much as a monster but as the scapegoat that Wilhelm Hauff, the author of the original novella, described him as.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let's leave politics and what you were told was the "absolute truth"
about what happened or did not happen aside, and evaluate the film
purely from a film-making point of view: BRILLIANT!
Films with a message, whether one agrees or disagrees with it, are of two types: The type that insults your intelligence by spelling the message for you in the most vulgar and ridiculous manner, such as "Avatar", or a type that absorbs you through an interesting story and good acting and delivers the message artistically leaving you to think and make of it what you want to make. "Jud Süß" without a doubt belongs to the second type, alongside such sophisticated movies as "Dogville" and "Forrest Gump".
The film is a massive production by the standards of the day, and you can feel how nothing was spared during the making. The crowd scenes are very well done with the well known German discipline you would be able to see how extras in the background who are hardly visible are acting as if they were centre screen. The sets are very well done and camera work is no less impressive. Even the one scene of nudity is done with taste and not at all gratuitous. Acting has traces of the expressionism associated with earlier silent German masterpieces, giving the film a feel that is quite unique.
This is one film that works. It has everything that makes a movie enjoyable, yet leaves you feeling exactly what the makers wanted you to feel, even for a few moments. It is similar to how "Triumph of the Will" leaves you with an adrenaline rush and admiration for the makers even if you are completely against the material. Needless to say that dummies who criticise it as "racist propaganda" or whatever nonsense they come up with need to have a look at Hollywood's films during the 1940s and see how Japanese people are portrayed if they want to see what true cheap racist propaganda is.
Jud Süß in my opinion is one of the finest 100 films ever made, and it's a shame that it's still banned in many countries around the world.
"In this film I show primordial Judaism, as it was then and as it has
remained until today, substantially unchanged. In contrast to
international Judiasm, there is only the Jew Süss, the elegant court
financial adviser, the treacherous schemer; in short: the disguised
Jew." -Veit Harlan, DER FILM, Berlin, January 20, 1940
In 1737, German-Jewish financier Josef Süss Oppenheimer stood trial for "fraud, embezzlement, treason, lecherous relations with the court ladies, and accepting bribes" and Veit Harlan's anti-Semetic propaganda piece is the Nazi "prosecution" to Lothar Mendes' 1934 British "defense" film of the same name. In the early eighteenth century, no Jews were allowed to enter Stuttgart and the crafty Jew Süss vows to get in and open the way for the rest of his people. Indebted to the money-lender, the weak-willed, blustery lech Duke Karl Alexander allows him in and makes Süss his financial adviser against the advice of the governing Counsel. Soon, the city begins to buckle under the heavy taxation and rampant inflation and after he begins pimping for his sovereign, Süss persuades the Duke to lift the ban on Jews. Next, Süss urges him to disband the Council and proclaim himself absolute monarch but after Süss rapes a Councilman's daughter and she commits suicide, the people rise up and revolt, causing the death of the Duke. Despite his protests that he was just a poor Jew following orders, Süss is tried, convicted, and executed, strung up in a bird cage high above the village square where in real life his corpse hung for six years as a constant reminder. "Jews aren't wise, only clever." The Jews are cast out of Stuttgart again and the film's closing speech warns future generations to do the same ...for the sake of the children.
Correlations between both Rasputin and the court of Versailles are evoked and the Lord is invoked just as often to condemn Jewry in no uncertain terms. One Councilman reads from "Luther" (a Lutheran bible?) which says that outside of the Devil, man has no worse enemy than the Jew and God wants them "scattered like ashes across the earth" (which gave me a bad ISIS vibe) but despite the reprehensible message, there's no denying director Harlan had a sure hand when it came to staging public unrest and the pomp of court intrigue. Lead actor Ferdinand Marian was reminiscent of Hollywood's Joseph Shildkraut in MGM's MARIE ANTOINETTE and he also knew his craft.
Commissioned by the Third Reich's Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, JUD Süß is almost as melodramatic and just as lavish as its British counterpart with the same attention to detail and, long unseen, had acquired a mythically horrific reputation over time. Objectionable to modern audiences everywhere except the Middle East, the film was a big hit in Nazi Germany when first released. Re-examined of late, Veit Harlan's "key historical document...remains a deeply unsettling cinematic experience" with a legit, restored DVD release.
After the war, director Harlan stood trial for "crimes against humanity" and insisted that not only was he ordered to make the film, he actually managed to tone it down considerably. He was given a light sentence and his artistic reputation has been somewhat rehabilitated in recent years. The film's Jew Süss, Ferdinand Marian, was similarly accused and committed suicide in 1946. Although I'm no scholar on the subject, like everything else, the truth about Jew Süss most likely lies somewhere between the British canonization and the Nazi demonization and the contrast between the two films is both fascinating and enlightening. Ironically, Harlan's ANDERS ALS DU UND ICH ("Different From You And Me" 1957) was another long unseen shocker that was alleged to have done for gays what JUD Süß did for Jews but seeing both the cut and uncut versions now, its clear Harlan's film was much more "sensitive" (for the time, anyway) than the homophobic German censor's cut.
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