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Discussions on Nazi cinema usually begin and sometimes end with "Triumph
the Will," but film in the Third Reich was hardly limited to outright
propaganda. UFA and the other studios, with Goebbels enthusiastic
encouragement, provided plenty of slick entertainment to take people's
off such matters as rationing, arrests, deportations, and mounting
"Die Grosse Liebe" ("The Great Love") was the most popular movie of the period and ranks as the key film in Nazi popular culture. Quite simply, it has everything that a German audience could have asked for in the summer of 1942.
First and foremost, it stars Zarah Leander, an actress who combined many of the talents of Garbo and Dietrich. Unknown in America then or now, the Swedish Leander was the greatest star of the German cinema from the late 30s to well into the war years. Here she plays a popular singer named Hanna Holberg who, for all intents and purposes, is Zarah Leander.
Second, "Die Grosse Liebe"offers a stalwart German hero in Viktor Staal, whose characterization of a Luftwaffe officer comes off as strong, but nowhere near as steely (or should I say "Nazi?") as Carl Raddatz's efforts in "Stukas" or "Wunschkonzert." Staal has a soft side that Raddatz never projected, and he's certainly the better physical match for as imposing a figure as Leander.
Third, its tone manages to be earnest and serious without being melancholy. By the time the film was in production the invasion of Russia was underway and there could no longer be any illusions that the war would be short or easy. The essential spirit of the film is sacrifices yes, but no regrets. Not coincidentally, this is the lesson Leander's character must learn in the course of the story and that the audience must take to heart as well.
Finally, Leander sings two of her biggest hits which together present conflicting emotional responses to Germany's increasingly desperate situation - "Davon geht die Welt nicht Unter" and "Ich weiss, es wird einmal ein Wunder Gescheh'n." The first, freely translated as "It Isn't the End of the World," is cheery and upbeat. As Leander sings, her soldier audience literally swings and sways to the music and momentarily forgets the war. The second, a prayer as much as an anthem, could be translated as "I Know One Day a Miracle Will Happen." Here the clear message is one of hope that the war will soon be over, but the mere expression of this urge serves to acknowledge that things aren't going all that well.
As we know, the miracle never happened for Nazi Germany and after only 12 years it came to the end of its own twisted world. But to German audiences in 1942 there was still hope and "Die Grosse Liebe" was the cinematic expression of that heartfelt emotion. No wonder the film was the greatest box office success of the Third Reich.
Perhaps the party who wrote the review saying that the lyrics of the songs are smarter than the writer of them didn't know the history of them. The great Bruno Balz (of the team Bruno Balz-Michael Jary) wrote the lyrics from prison in Berlin. He was arrested for homosexual acts with a Hitler youth. Micheal Jary (and some say Balz' friend Zarah Leander) pleaded his case before Goebbels and Mr. Balz was released on the grounds that he was needed to write inspiring songs. He is not credited in the film. As for the film itself, there is a strong sense of camp. Just watching Leander in her furs is a thrill. And, yes, the songs live on. It is the story of an affair between a famous singer and an Airforce pilot (who must leave for the war) No one can suffer the way Zarah Leander does! And Grete Weiser as the maid brings howls of laughter as she often does. While the film isn't devoid of politics , those of us who hate the crimes of the Nazis can look to other aspects of this film and enjoy it.
In the 12 years that were the "1000-jähriges Reich" the UFA produced four
types of movies. First, there were films like Leni Riefenstahl's
"Triumph des Willens" which had the purpose of winning more and more social
strata over to the ideas of fascism ('Führerprinzip', 'Volksgemeinschaft',
'Opferbereitschaft', etc.). Recruitment by means of impressive visual
Secondly the ministry of propaganda tried to prepare the Germans for the so-called 'Endlösung' by intensifying the existing anti-Semitism to the most extreme degree with films like Veit Harlan's notorious "Jud Süß". These films are the most vile and abhorrent (but also the most clumsy and gross) concoctions in film-history.
In the last years of WWII the UFA put great effort in so-called 'Durchhaltefilme' (most infamous example: Harlan's "Kolberg"). With these Goebbels tried to force the war-weary soldiers and civilians to hold out to the end and keep on fighting to the last bullet.
However, the most popular and successful UFA-movies during the third Reich did not belong to these three categories, but were primarily made in order to entertain the audience and take it's mind off the war. The propaganda for the Nazi-cause in these films was much more subtle (yet still evident in most cases). "Die große Liebe" is a prime example for such an 'UFA-Unterhaltungsfilm', because it was seen by 28 million viewers till the end of the war (and thus still holds the record for any film in Germany as far as I know; for comparison "Titanic" had 'only' 17 million viewers, and that was considered a unique success). Nevertheless "Die große Liebe" is almost forgotten today, albeit every German still knows the two songs that Zarah Leander sings in this film: "Ich weiß, es wird einmal ein Wunder geschehen" and "Davon geht die Welt nicht unter". The lyrics of these songs seem to be smarter than their author, because they work both as 'Durchhaltelieder' (as intended) and as sarcastic commentaries on the last years of the 3rd Reich. As such they were used by directors like Fassbinder and Vilsmaier.
The History Channel is running a series titled "Hitler's Women". One
episode features Zarah Leander, clips from this movie, behind the
scenes information, and its historical context. The high point for me
came when the Nazi film studio UFA dressed Hitler's personal guard in
drag, complete with FAIRY WINGS and heavy eye makeup, to stand behind
Zarah in an ornate, Flo Ziegfeld style production number. They had to
do this because Zarah was very tall, and UFA couldn't find enough tall,
pretty women. Blow ups of stills from this scene clearly show the
rather grim faced "chorus girls" were really men.
German actor Hans Blech, who later played the German officer who first sees the invasion in The Longest Day and a German aide to nasty Nazi Col. Hessler in The Battle of The Bulge, served in the German Army in WW2.
During the filming of this movie he recalls wearing a lieutenant's uniform as he walked backstage past the half dressed guards. He couldn't resist, and shouted "Achtung!" The guards instinctively snapped to attention, as their wigs went askew and their dresses fell off. Ah, Nazis in drag. Somebody oughta make a movie. BC
An interesting view of life in wartime Germany. Zarah Leander sings some great songs. The are a few dull stretches mostly with her agent. This is the film for which Frau Leander is most remembered. It even made the OKW unhappy because it showed an Air Force officer spends the night with the singer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie as fiction is not half as bad as I thought it would be.The only problem is that German war films dot com didn't tell the truth about the quality. It wasn't sharp .But it was watchable and complete. It is entirely okay to watch and own this and other Nazi era movies whether it is direct propaganda or hate or the sneaky escapism. As long as Nazi and hate Jewish people or gays. As long as you realize that what Hitler did against the government and the people were wrong. Don't listen to those who are hiding behind tolerance to stop you from viewing these films. They are wrong. Victor loses gas has he is fighting us and Russia from stopping his government form murdering their people and taking over the United states and Russia. So you see the hi Hitlers and the uniforms then for the moment then disappears when he meets Hanna , played by Zara, at a street car or bus. The uniforms entirely disappears everyone in civilian clothing.As he has taken his leave from. They star getting familiar with each other . When she going to a party she sees him in the same apartment are and decides to invite him to the party with him.. They eventually fall for each other. There's one scene in which they are at a shelter because of the air raids cause we and Russia are trying to bomb their city to Germany reformed. In this picture we are the bad guys we want to stop their rights to control the whole world and murder their enemy the Jewish , that is Hitler and the Nazis rights.So, When Victor has to go back on duty to try to stop us their enemy. Hannah Holdberg worries as she is entertaining in vaudeville Germany.Paul Horbinger her friend and composer and orchestra leader by guess tries to discourage this love . Victor Janson, who played a very small part as a Spanish character on Marika Rokks stage show in women of my dreams. He now plays an Italian director of the theater in Italy that Hannah was engage to play.He looks like he could be Oliver hardy's twin German cousin.You see her rehearsing and Italian aria which you discover that Zara is a good opera singer too.But you see Italians are not Arrians and Hitler used Mussilini to get ahead. So, there was a sneaky racism here .At the end you see Victor Stahl and Zarah Leander acting like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney as they see their Nazi governments planes headed for doom.The song at the ending was nice . It was stating that it was not the end for Germany. Sure it was not.Hitler would commit suicide and that would be the end of the Nazis and once again Germany's future would be bright. The only problem was an editing glitch at the end of the picture. Paul Horbingers shot is a few more seconds longer than Zarahs. This is distracting.This is why a gave it a 9. 04/08/10. I just got the restored DVD version. It advertised as being 100 minutes. The bad print ,I had the, last song .As the camera was getting closer to the stage it jump cut to her close up. As if something was missing. It was. The better print version ads four lines to the last song which makes sense.But from my DVD timer it was played as 94 minutes and 11 second. This did not include introduction.Banned Available at www.Reichskino.com and Warfilms.com with subtitles
This slickly-done romance which starred Zarah Leander, "the Nazi Garbo," struck such a responsive chord with female audiences that it became one of the greatest box office successes of World War II Germany. The plot would have been a familiar one to American audiences of the same era -- a soldier on temporary leave from the war-front meets and falls in love with a music-hall singer -- and that's what makes seeing this movie now so unsettling. It suggests that audiences in war-time America and Nazi Germany had the same tastes, the same fantasies, the same aspirations, etc. Some outsider viewing this movie and a similar Hollywood product would have concluded that they were made by identical societies!
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