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Piotr J. Lewandowski
How do people cope when much of what they believed in is proved to be immoral and unethical?
DER RUF THE LAST ILLUSION
1949, 100 min., dir. Josef von Báky (Münchhausen), starring Fritz Kortner, Lina Carstens, English subtitles
A review by Dr Deena Padayachee
Recently I saw this ground-breaking, honest, courageous film which examines German attitudes after the country had been defeated and occupied in 1945.
A Jewish professor who has been hounded out of his job at a German university during the Hitler era is invited back to lecture. His first lecture is about Plato and Virtue. He has returned to a state that had incinerated around 6 million of his fellow Jews but he has personal reasons for returning.
In his inaugural lecture he does not hold back about the lack of virtue of the Hitler regime and the need for virtue now.
There are so many interesting parallels with our own country, South Africa. Many of us did not know the true nature of those who had imposed Apartheid with such zeal and who had tried so desperately to prolong the life of that vicious system by supporting it 'on the border' and in every way possible. They had benefited very greatly from those racist policies and they had been schooled to think of us as inferior, ignorant and backward. Many of them did not suddenly change after 1994 and become civilised whether they were professors, journalists, judges or lawyers. Many are still convinced that how they were and how they are is correct and the only way to be.
The laws may have changed but many of them certainly have not.
That is what this German film depicts and it makes your blood go cold as you realise just how difficult it is to educate human beings whether they are Nazis or Americans who killed Vietnamese peasants by the thousand or South Africans who enjoyed being racist bosses under Apartheid.
The film is very intelligently scripted and is, in my opinion, a master-piece. In South Africa many pretend that suddenly the old racists are all non racist 'liberals' but often just a little interaction reveals something very cruel and vile underneath. They are just very good at creating an often well-mannered chimera that fools many people.
South Africa has not yet produced such a film and I doubt that it will be made in the foreseeable future as the old racists still control so much in that industry. They still manage to produce films set during the Apartheid era which don't show Apartheid in anything approaching the ugliness of that brutal era. Sometimes not even one Europeans Only sign is shown on a beach!
This is not a film which most of those who control the movie-hire stores will be in any hurry to acquire. As expected, the film was, and is, not celebrated in the media or in Germany but it was flighted at Cannes.
It is through great films like this one that one will gradually acquire an understanding about what this planet we dwell on is really all about.
The 'Free West' goes to very great lengths to ensure that they continue to occupy the moral high ground. They continue to sit in judgement of us and they continually highlight the short-comings of our leaders while they themselves conceal and indeed cloak many important aspects of their unsavoury past and pretend to be civilised today.
Most of us are duped.
It must have taken great courage and indeed an almost reckless bravado to flight a film like this one to millions of Germans who had fought with everything they had to preserve the Nazi regime. It's amazing that the film was made at all.
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