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The Nazi propaganda mastermind behind Hitler speaks in first person as actor Kenneth Branagh reads pages of the diary kept by the chief of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, revealing the man's most inner thoughts. Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) was a symbol of Germany's Nazi regime and a twentieth-century icon of maniacal cruelty. His name has been synonymous with cynical, unscrupulous, and at times successful, propaganda. The life of Joseph Goebbels is far more complicated and disturbing than labels like "genius of spin" or "Reich Liar-General" would suggest. The chronicle shows how Goebbels continually "restaged" and reinvented himself -- from his early days as a radical "popular socialist" to his tragic end. The film lets Goebbels speak for himself through the diaries he kept without interruption from 1924 to 1945, as never before seen historical footage from German archives traces the life of the second most powerful man of the Third Reich, detailing his initial attraction to the Nazi ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Writers-directors Lutz Hachmeister and Michael Kloft structured this documentary in an unusual way by offering the actual words from Joseph Goebbels's 1924-1945 diaries.
Goebbels's word are spoken by the gifted British actor-director Kenneth Branagh, who unfortunately reads them as if he were just passing through town and needed a few extra bucks. Goebbels was a man of mercurial emotion, but that's hard to pick up from Branagh's rapid-fire and seemingly diffident delivery.
The film's structure leads to bigger problems: there are too many glaring omissions of crucial events in world history. A second narrator should have been used to fill in these gaps.
The examples of omission are numerous. We get a mere passing glance at the invasion of Poland, the event that was singularly responsible for launching World War II in Europe. We barely see the violent roundup of Jews all over the country, although Goebbels wrote often about his hatred of the 'Juden'.
The Battle of Britain, a critical early turning point in the war that is often credited with dissuading Hitler from invading England, is not even mentioned. The war on the eastern front with Russia is barely examined, we hear only scant mention of D-Day, there is no reference to the famous attempt on Hitler's life, and the film abruptly ends in less than five minutes with the pristine bodies of Goebbels's children and his own charred corpse.
The film does work as an examination of Goebbels's exasperation and frustrated self-importance (he saw himself as a possible Fuhrer). His smugness and arrogance are noted throughout in his diaries. He imagines himself as a 'new' Dostoyevsky, he deems the brilliant cinematographer-propagandist Leni Reifenstahl as an irritating 'minor' talent, he scoffs at Goering, Himmler and others, and he fairly glows when Der Adolph pats him on the back.
Joseph Goebbels and his 'philosophy' of propaganda (repeat lies often enough and they will eventually be interpreted by the public as truth) are alive and well in our society. Goebbels may be dead, but his ideas, in different forms, live on.
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