November 30, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema_The Ministry of Illusions_: The 5 Premises of Eric Rentschler

Introduction

Eric Rentschler’s Ministry of Illusions is one of an increasing number of academic studies re-viewing the structures, productions and effects of Nazi Cinema. Some of these studies are perhaps over-embedded in textual analysis to the point of excluding the contextual. It is clear that analysis of Nazi cinema as ‘bad object’ needs careful analysis in order to better understand how the mechanisms of this abominable regime were able to contribute to the maintenance of a hegemonic position in one of Europe’s most advanced countries.

Not least amongst Rentschler’s concerns is the easy availability of much of the output of the Nazi period, at least that which was classed as entertainment and therefore nothing more than a distraction. This is something we will return to in a piece summarising Rentschler’s concerns about the redemptive processes goping on within 1990s German cinema which has potentially dangerous redemptive characteristics.

The 5 Premises

Premise 1

Nazi cinema needs to be seen in the light of the state’s concerted effort to create a culture industry in the service of mass deception (Rentschler p 16)

Premise 2

Entertainment played a crucial role in Nazi culture. Film ...was to move the hearts and minds of masses while seeming to have little in common with politics or party agendas (ibid p 19).

Premise 3

Goebbels saw media culture as a kind of orchestra which moves forward in a planned way using different instruments palying different notes. The whole being co-ordinated into a symphony: The political itself is instituted and constituted (and regualrly re-grounds itself) in and as works of art (Phillippe Lacone-Labatte on Heidegger and Aesthetics, cited Rentschler p 21).

Premise 4

Mass culture was fundamental to the Nazi project creating a specific social ontology anchoring people in a reconstructed everyday: ...the popular clearly played a prominent and ubiquitous role in everyday life. Rentschler notes that the popular entertainment model had homologies with American ones.

Premise 5

Neither dumping ground of propaganda nor a moronic cult of distraction and surely not a locus of resistance, _Nazi feature production warrants more careful scrutiny. Interestingly Rentschler notes here that the popular media could not have been a locus of resistance despite more revisionist attempts to play with concepts of ‘reading texts against the grain as an act of resistance’. (Well if even that was the case it wasn’t very effective resistance one is tempted to add).


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