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In Nazi Germany, film was considered a major medium for the Nazi Party propaganda machine. While pure propaganda material was not all that was produced by the domestic film industry, there still was a party line to be followed, especially with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels having complete control over the content. This film explores a collection of the most significant artists involved in the medium with clips of the major films produced. Furthermore, the major themes and artistic boundaries of Nazi German films are presented from the regime's beginning in 1933 to its total defeat in 1945.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You've Told Us What Kracauer Would Have Thought. Here's What I Think.
When the narrator started out by quoting Kracauer to the effect that cinema tells us what a nation is thinking, and then proposed to go through a dozen years of German films, from 1933 through 1945, to find proof of this, I winced. Doesn't it tell you what the film makers were thinking?
While I have seen fewer than a hundred German films from this period, they have been a diverse bunch; certainly, you can prove any thesis you wish by cherry-picking which films you wish to highlight; and by the end, the film makers had done a lousy job of it. In any case, investigation is not to find confirmation of your theory. It's to find facts that support or disprove your hypothesis.
Even more, there are basic flaws in this view of German cinema in this period. After we discount the fact that people like Kracauer were working on old memories at the time they were writing, the view they offer of German film implies that all that German people looked at was German film. In reality, Hollywood -- America's Hollywood -- had siphoned off much of the talent and money of the industry in the 1920s and a good part of the movies that Germans saw when they went to the cinema were Hollywood movies. When they weren't, they were French or Scandinavian or even Soviet films, because movies were big International business. German film makers weren't showing their own works to a captive audience; Goebbels didn't have everything his own way. These producers were competing against Paramount and MGM and British International Pictures, and UFA couldn't distribute their movies to Chicago and Boise and Adelaide as easily as the competition.
As a result, German film makers often worked in fields that the big Hollywood studios didn't feel worth their effort. In the US, the smaller studios turned out B westerns. Those movies which the narrator claimed reflected the German zeitgeist? Could those be programmers that Louis B. Mayer thought wouldn't play in Peoria, and not worth Culver City's resources?
The movie makes a fuss of the peculiarities of German cinema, starting with their stars, all of whom seemed to me of types familiar from Hollywood or British film studios of the period; looking at clips of TRIUMPH OF THE WILL on the big screen, for the first time in a quarter century, while the narrator talked of the totalitarian use of bodies as geometric assemblies made me think of Busby Berkley shots from Warner Brothers musicals. Surely other people have made the connection before me! This was followed by clips from OLYMPIA. Those reminded me of Berkley's later work with Esther Williams.
In the end, this movie has interesting clips from dozens of movies, few of which I have seen. I want to see them. They look like good movies. We have spent far too many decades listening to what people who haven't seen them tell us what they mean, and convincing others of the same, as if every film is a unique event, every national cinema is completely walled off from every other throughout history, and this is what they mean to each and every one of us, ever and forever, amen.
No! Give us the opportunity, and we will look at them ourselves, and we will decide what they mean to us. This movie starts off talking about propaganda and mind control. The best way to control some one's mind is to slip him the 'right' answer before you ask him the question. Show me the films, not the clip. Then ask me what I think of them. If you want to tell me what you think of them later and why -- and 'why' does not mean "Kracauer says" -- we can have a bang-up argument about it. Hooray.
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