From aboard the IMDboat at San Diego Comic-Con, Kevin Smith talks to the cast of "Teen Wolf" about the solemn yet celebratory panel for the upcoming season. This news and more in our Guide to Comic-Con.
The story of the legendary King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886), his opera interest and friendship with theatre personalities such as Richard Wagner and Joseph Kainz, and at the same time a reflection of the German 1800s.
Director Hans-Jurgen Syberberg examines the rise and fall of the Third Reich in this brooding seven-hour masterpiece, which incorporates puppetry, rear-screen projection, and a Wagnerian ... See full summary »
Richard Wagner's last opera has remained controversial since its first performance for its unique, and, for some, unsavory blending of religious and erotic themes and imagery. Based on one ... See full summary »
A six hour long monologue performed by Edith Clever, who reads texts by Syberberg, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Plato, Friedrich Hölderlin, Novalis, Friedrich Nietzsche,... See full summary »
Karl May (1842-1912) was the most popular of all German writers; his novels, translated to dozens of languages sold more than 200 million copies worldwide. They are still in print, and still selling in Germany and abroad. Every summer his works are put on stage at the Karl May festival in Bad Segeberg in Germany, and there are web sites devoted to his writing.
May was a pulp writer, but one of some size. Many of his novels are set in an Aryanized American Southwest, centering on the blood brotherhood of Old Shatterhand, a German surveyor, and Winnetou, an honorable Apache. Others are set in (real and imagined) Oriental countries. "Natives" are depicted as noble, but irrevocably doomed by encroaching civilization. May's novels were devoured by German readers from one end of the political spectrum to the other and exerted a strong influence on Adolf Hitler, who saw the "colonization" of Eastern Europe in May's terms. When Nazi troops were being decimated by Soviet resistance, Hitler sent 300,000 copies of May's novels to Eastern Front to be distributed among the soldiers. In Hitler's words, "The struggle we are waging there against the partisans resembles very much the struggle in North America against the Red Indians. Victory will go to the strong, and strength is on our side."
Although all filmmakers of the New German Cinema in the seventies and eighties (Fassbinder, Schlöndorff, ) were obsessed in various degrees with Nazism, Syberberg was the most systematic on the subject. In his movies he explores the various currents in German culture, both highbrow (Wagner, in the movie Parsifal, 1982) and kitsch (May) that contributed, unwittingly and in unexpected ways to the state of the German psyche that accepted and followed massively an ideology as monstrous as Nazism.
As for the film itself, it concentrates on May's last years, apparently spent in legal actions against ex-wives, ex-editors, detractors and combinations thereof. It turns out that May was somewhat of a scoundrel, had serious brushes with the law and served time in his youth. He claimed later, falsely, that his novels were the product of actual experience (he seems not to have even visited any of his scenarios). The film is not very explicit on his influence on Nazism except for one passage where Adolf Hitler, then a young man living in a Vienna flophouse borrows a pair of shoes to go and hear May speak.
I believe that this film can only be appreciated fully by someone who was exposed in his/her youth to May's writing. As Syberberg has said, "Anyone that knows the significance of Karl May for the German people, how every schoolboy grows up with his works, also knows how close we are here to a history of German sentiment, to its adventures of the soul and its myths of the Good Man, the German who fights and conquers for all that is noble."
Syberberg's casting is somewhat perverse; several of his actors had flourishing careers in the cinema of the Third Reich, careers that continued smoothly in the postwar West German cinema. Surely there is a message here.
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