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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 score into a singular epic vision. Syberberg, who grew up under Nazi tyranny, ruminates on good and evil and the rest of humanity's complicity in the horrors of the holocaust. Written by
I don't know how to begin to "review" this cinematic experience, as I felt immersed in the film rather than trying to get my mind around it entirely. This work is neither an apologia for Hitler and the Third Reich nor a condemnation, but a serious attempt by a true intellectual and film auteur, Syberberg, to look at it ALL from every side, the horror and evil as well as the cultural, historical, and philosophical foundations of Hitler and the German people.
The film is subtitled "A Film From Germany" because it is plumbs not only the depths of Nazism and World War II but the entire German psyche. It attempts to present, through hard facts, historical documents, films and photographs, and also through dream, metaphor, and stunningly haunting tableaux, what Hitler really MEANT and what he continues to mean. There are many excellent actors portraying both well-known figures like Himmler and lesser known individuals like Hitler's valet who relate what might seem like endless minutiae of Hitler's daily life but do add a great deal to the ultimate picture of the man about whom so much has been written. It seems that if you don't revile him completely, even today, you are suspected of being a neo-fascist yourself, but this film attempts to offer a complete picture and by extension, a baring of the German soul and what is referred to on several occasions as their "happy guilt".
One issue I have is with the English subtitles. There are so many typographical and spelling errors that one could only call it sloppy. I don't know why a film of this magnitude that took so long coming to home video shouldn't have had more scrupulous editing. Considering how many talking heads there are in the film and the volume of exposition, it was hard enough to keep up with the subtitles without stumbling over the mistakes. On the plus side, there is a lot of English voice-over that provides some breathing space for us Anglos.
And one last comment on the historical context. Considering the film was made in 1977, 34 years ago, much has changed in the world, in Europe, and in the global culture, that the film presciently hints at, not the least of which is the continued emergence of Germany and Japan both economically and democratically. One important point "Our Hitler" made was that Hitler was probably the apotheosis of democracy, rising as he did from the middle class and glorifying the common people, and being democratically elected by them. What he did with that mandate was probably the most horrifying and endlessly fascinating stories of the 20th century.
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