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Trippy examination of a historian looking for the Holy Grail and ended up in bed with the Nazis
Richard Stanley had been hired by Britain's Channel Four to do a film on the real Raiders of the Lost Ark about the Nazi search for the Ark of the Covenant, however it quickly became clear that there was no such story to tell. Instead he found the story of Otto Rahn and his quest for the Holy Grail. Channel Four wasn't interested and Stanley was forced to put the film on the back burner. After the collapse of his version of the Island of Dr Moreau Stanley returned to subject and began to try and sort out what the real story was.
Otto Rahn was a writer who's life's passion was to pursue the Graal. This is an object that was made from the crown of Lucifer after his fall from grace. Its a powerful relic that Rahn believed could be found by decoding the poem Parzival by Wolfram Von Eschenbach. Rahn found backing for his ideas in the mystical societies that were active in Germany between the world wars. The societies were tied to right wing politics and it wasn't long before Rahn was attached to the Nazi's and the SS. Its a dark story about a man who ended up in a situation that was way over his head.
The ability to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the Nazi interest in the occult is a difficult thing. There have been more than a fair share of books and films on the subject and not all of them have been scrupulous in their reporting. What you think is real very often not and what you think is not occasionally is. Myth and legend and fact have intertwined so much that anything is possible, especially for an open mind. This is Stanley's attempt to unravel the knot (or begin to unravel since Stanley in the commentary on the DVD states that some documents concerning some of the subjects are just now being declassified. Stanley hopes to pursue more leads and produce a longer cut later).
The film is structured as a mystical journey. The visuals and music are often very hypnotic taking you to another place and time. The visuals, taken from photographs and old films are supplemented with interviews with people who knew Rahn and spell out, occasionally contradictorily, the events in Rahn's life. It takes Rahn from his days in college to his final days in the SS.
Richard Stanley has fashioned a unique film about a unique character. Its a film that is made in such away as to suck you in and to give you some sense of the subject and the times. Its a good film and good introduction to the weird mind set that one often finds when one looks at the Nazi/occult connection.
Its not a perfect film. Stanley at times seems more interested in developing a mood (which he does brilliantly) than he does in telling all he knows (he doesn't, as he explains in the DVD commentary). Everything isn't explained and more than a few questions are left unanswered. I'm not sure how much of this is the result of Stanley leaving it out intentionally or the result of his simply not having the answers. Rahn was not a major figure in the Nazi regime, he was at best a footnote so the fact that we have any information about him is amazing.
I really liked this film and want to see it again. The structure of the film is such that I'm pretty certain that viewers will be rewarded by a second viewing when things can connect up. Definitely worth a shot if you're interested in the subject or the director and his films.
7 out of 10 movie alone 10 out of 10 if you watch the movie and then the commentary on the DVD which explains and deepens the material in the film.
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