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The Architecture of Doom (1989)

Undergångens arkitektur (original title)
Not Rated | | Documentary, History | 13 October 1989 (Sweden)
An absorbing and chilling documentary about the National Socialist aesthetic, and how attempts to create the Aryan Ideal caused the extermination of millions. Aspects covered include: ... See full summary »


Peter Cohen


Peter Cohen
1 win. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Rolf Arsenius Rolf Arsenius ... Narrator (original version) (voice)
Bruno Ganz ... Narrator (German, subtitled English versions) (voice)
Sam Gray Sam Gray ... Narrator (dubbed English version)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Martin Bormann ... Self (archive footage)
Karl Brandt ... Self (archive footage) (as Dr. Karl Brandt)
Arno Breker Arno Breker ... Self (archive footage)
Hermann Giesler Hermann Giesler ... Self (archive footage)
Joseph Goebbels ... Self (archive footage) (as Josef Goebbels)
Heinrich Himmler ... Self (archive footage)
Adolf Hitler ... Self (archive footage)
Wilhelm Keitel Wilhelm Keitel ... Self (archive footage)
Viktor Lutze Viktor Lutze ... Self (archive footage)
Jeanne Moreau ... Narrator (French version) (voice)
Alfred Rosenberg ... Self (archive footage)
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt ... Self (archive footage)


An absorbing and chilling documentary about the National Socialist aesthetic, and how attempts to create the Aryan Ideal caused the extermination of millions. Aspects covered include: Hitler's epiphany while viewing Wagner's opera 'Rienzi', the rise of the homo-erotic Grecian/Nordic ideal, the parallels drawn between the 'degenerate' art of the cubists and dadaists and the mentally ill/physically deformed, the Nazi obsession with purity and cleanliness, and, finally, the descent of the Jewish people to the level of a virus/vermin. Written by Dawn M. Barclift

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Skönhetskult och barbari i Tredje Riket


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


While researching this film in Germany, 'Cohen, Peter' stumbled upon an obscure industrial documentary about various methods of vermin control for factory use. This short, entitled "Kleinkrieg" (or "Little War"), proved invaluable as it was the first to advocate the use of Zyklon-B as an effective means of mass extermination. See more »


Features The Eternal Jew (1940) See more »


Rienzi (excerpt)
Music by Richard Wagner
See more »

User Reviews

The power of incompetent narration
2 April 2008 | by TabarnoucheSee all my reviews

The film approaches the Nazi period from a refreshing angle: the seldom-documented (in film) visions that informed official Nazi aesthetics, given priority by a host of top Nazis who, like their Fuehrer, were failed artists. It offered a number of insights, such as the role played by architectural sketches Hitler had made in his youth and the future propaganda value of gargantuan Greek-influenced architecture (e.g., Reich buildings were designed to decompose along the lines of Roman ruins so as to impress archaeologists centuries later).

But the English narration by Sam Gray was so atrocious that it was difficult to separate it from the visual and conceptual qualities of the film itself. Imagine a Beethoven symphony where the strings are played without passion and several beats off from the other sections – no reflection on the composer, but still hard to listen to. So great was the impact of the narration, in fact, that I expected to see ratings averaging 5 or 6 (my vote) on the IMDb site. Gray's uneven, indifferent inflection applied to a script he clearly (to judge by his mispronunciations) had not familiarized himself with gave the film an amateurish quality that it surely did not have in the original Swedish or the German versions. Moreover, the English translation, done by a German, was awkward in places.

As tragic an oversight as the choice of the English narrator was, Peter Cohen and the producers ultimately retain responsibility for letting it pass, especially since Cohen had worked in English before. Any educated native English-speaker asked to review it would have cautioned them, after a single listening, not to underestimate how much the narration undermined its effectiveness. Engaging another narrator surely would not have broken the budget.

Had I the choice, I'd see this film again with the Swedish or German narrations, subtitled in English.

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Release Date:

13 October 1989 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Architektur des Untergangs See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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