All entries for November 2006
November 16, 2006
This will take the form of a conventional bibliography dealing with not just the cinema of the Weimar and Nazi periods but providing some titles for general history and cultural history of the Weimar and Nazi Period. Where relevant good quality articles are discovered on the web they will be hyperlinked for your convenience. These hyperlinked articles are categorised in a separate section with standard bibliography being place d below this. Please suggest any hyperlinks or additions in the comments box.Thanks.
Baackmann Susanne: Review of Carter et al. German Cinema Book. In Seminar journal of Germanic Studies July 2006
Baranowsky, Shelley.2004. Strength Through Joy Cambridge: CUP
Bruns, Jana. Review of Anja Aschied Hitler’s Heroines: Stardom and Womanhood in Nazi Cinema H-German October 2003.
Conboy, Martin. The Discourse of Location: Realigning the Popular in German Cinema. European Journal of Communications. Sage. 1999 vol 14.3
Dassanowsky, Robert von. Review of: Hake, Sabina German National Cinema. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. 232pp. ISBN 0-41508-902-6
Horak Jan-Christopher. Review of Guerin, Francis. A Culture of Light. Cinema and technology in 1920s Germany. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2005. ISBN: 0 8166 4286 9. In Screening the Past March 2006
Horak Jan-Christopher Film history and film preservation: reconstructing the text of The Joyless Street (1925)
Lee, Jennifer.Selling the Nazi Dream: Advertisement of the Musical Comedy Film in the Third Reich MA Candidate University of Victoria. Supervisor, Dr. Thomas Saunders
Malone Paul M. Negotiating Modernity in Weimar Film Theory. Film Philosophy, Volume 3 Number 37, September 1999ISSN 1466-4615
Author: Mennel, Barbara. Publication Date: 22-MAR-04 The New Paradigms of German Film Studies Review)
“Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. “Re-imagining German Film History. Film-Philosophy Journal | Salon | Portal (ISSN 1466-4615) Vol. 5 No. 43, December 2001
Reading, Anna. “Scarlet Lips in Belsen:culture gender an ethnicity in the policies of the Holocaust”. Media Culture and Society 21.4. Sage.
Rosenthal, Alan. Review of Reeves Nicholas. 1999 The Power of Film Propaganda: Myth or Reality. London: Cassell. ‘Film Quarterly’, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Winter, 2001-2002), pp. 67-69
Seçil Deren: “Cinema and Film Industry in Weimar Republic, 1918-1933” from The Cradle of Modernity: Politics and Art in Weimar Republic (1918-1933), unpublished MSc thesis submitted to the Graduate School of Social Sciences of the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, 1997, pp. 129-163.
Spector, Scott. “Was the Third Reich Movie-Made?
Interdisciplinarity and the Reframing of “Ideology” ” American Historical Review. Vol 106 No 2. April 2001.
Tegel, Susan.The politics of censorship: Britain’s ‘Jew Suss’ in London, New York and Vienna -1934. Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television 1995
von Papen, Manuela. Opportunities and Limitations: New Woman in Third Reich Cinema. Women’s History Review Vol 8 No 4 1999.
Paris, Michael. Review of Carter Erica.2004. Dietrich’s Ghosts:The Sublime and the Beautiful in Third Reich Film London: BFI. Scope No 6, October 2006.
When Biology Became Destiny. This is a PDF download of a discussion with authors of this groundbreaking book 25 years on.
This is a useful internet ‘Gateway’ link to the search term European Cinema. It includes several useful sites on German cinema.
Another useful gateway into German cinema is the Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung
A fine recent list of resources and bibliography including websites is contained in Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz. Eds. 2002. The German Cinema Book. London. British Film Institute. This is a first port of call for those interested in a serious follow up to the course.
Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz. 2002. ‘Introduction’. Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz. 2002. The German Cinema Book. London. British Film Institute
Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz. Eds. 2002. The German Cinema Book. London. British Film Institute
Burleigh, Michael. 2000. The Third Reich a New History. London: Macmillan
Cook Pam Ed. 1985. The Cinema Book. British Film Institute : London : ISBN 0-85170-144-2
Downing, Taylor.Olympia. London: BFI
Eisner, Lotte H. 1969. The Haunted Screen. London: Thames and Hudson
Elsaesser Thomas: 1996.Germany : The Weimar Years : Nowell-Smith Geoffrey Ed : Oxford History of World Cinema : OUP : Oxford. ISBN 0-19-874242-8
Elsaesser, Thomas. _ Metropolis_. London: BFI
Elsaesser, Thomas. 2000. Weimar Cinema and After. London: Routledge
Evans, Richard. 2003.The Coming of the Third Reich. Harmondsworth: Viking / Penguin
Faletti Heidi. 2000. “Reflections of Weimar Cinema in the Nazi Propaganda films SA-Mann Brand, Hitlerjunge Quex, and Hans Westmar” in Reimer, Robert C. 2000. Cultural History Through a National Socialist Lens. New York: Camden House
Gunning, Tom. 2000. The Films of Fritz Lang. London: BFI
Hake , Sabine. 2002. German National Cinema. London : Routledge
Hake, Sabine. 2001. Popular Cinema of the Third Reich. Austin: University of Texas Press
Hake, Sabine. 1997. ‘The melodramatic imagination of Detlef Sierck: Final Chord and its reonances’. Screen 38.2 Summer 1997 pp 129-148
Horak, Jan Christopher. 2002. ‘German Film Comedy’. Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz eds. The German Cinema Book. London: British Film Institute
Jung Uli and Schatzberg Walter.1999. _Beyond Caligari: The Films of Robert Wiene _ . Oxford : Berghan Books. ISBN 1-57181-196-6
Kaes. Anton. 2000. M . London : BFI
Kaes Anton: 1996 : The New German Cinema : Nowell-Smith Geoffrey Ed : Oxford History of World Cinema : OUP : Oxford : ISBN 0-19-874242-8
Kaes, Anton. 2004. Weimar Cinema: The Predicament of Modernity. In Ezra, Elizabeth. Ed . European Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Kershaw, Ian. 1993 (3rd Ed).The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation. London: Edward Arnold
Kracauer, Siegfried. 2004 re. From Caligari to Hitler. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Leiser Erwin : 1974. Nazi Cinema . Secker and Warburg : London
McGilligan Patrick: 1997 : Fritz Lang : Faber : London: ISBN 0-571-19175-4
Moltke von, Johannes. 2002 ‘Evergreens: The Heimat Genre.’ Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz eds. The German Cinema Book. London: British Film Institute
Murray, Bruce. Film and the German Left . Austin Texas: University of Texas Press , 1990
O’Brien, Mary-Elizabeth. Nazi Cinema as Enchantment. New York: Camden House
Petley, Julien. Capital and Culture: German Cinema 1933-45. London. BFI, 1979
Petley, Julian. ‘Film Policy in the Third Reich’. Bergfelder Tim, Carter Erica and Goturk Deniz eds. 2002. The German Cinema Book. London: British Film Institute
Prawer, S.S. 2002. The Blue Angel. London: BFI
Reimer, Robert C. 2000. Cultural History Through a National Socialist Lens. New York: Camden House
Reimer, Robert C, Zachau Reinhard. 2005. German Culture Through Film. Newburyport MA: Focus
Rentschler, Eric. 1996. ‘Germany : Nazism and After’. Nowell-Smith Geoffrey Ed. Oxford History of World Cinema. Oxford: OUP
Rentschler, Eric. 1996. The Ministry of Illusion. Cambridge Mass: Harvard
Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Greed. London, BFI
Rother, Rainer. 2002. Leni Riefenstahl: the Seduction of Genius. London: Continuum
Saunders, Thomas. J.1994. From Berlin to Hollywood: American Cinema and Weimar Germany. Berkeley: University of California Press
Saunders, Thomas. J. 1999. ‘Germany and Film Europe’. In Higson, Andrew and Maltby Richard. eds. 1999. Film Europe and Film America. Exeter: Exeter University Press
Taylor, Richard. (1998 Re). Film Propaganda. London: I. B. Tauris
Welch, David. 2002 (2nd ed). The Third Reich Politics and Propaganda .London: Routledge
There is no point at all in ‘re-inventing’ what is already very good. Rather than laboriously re-enter data this filmography will hyperlink to entries already available on the excellent resource at Deutsche Film Portal and also filmographies from other courses accessible via the web. Regarding the Deutsche Film Portal it should be noted that while many of the pages are translated into English understandably the best material is only available in German. Presumably translation is an ongoing project. competent people may wish to volunteer their services. If this is done through a course then this could count as course credits.
Many films are held in university collections and other specialist collections. Where the content of these collections can be downloaded a hyperlinked reference has been been added to the resources section. If anybody comes across a useful URL please put it in the commentary box. Thanks.
This filmography will organise its links to types of personnel involved in the industry. It will start with directors and then proceed to actors, producers camera people, designers, costume designers.
Filmographies used on various courses
Please bear in mind that these will not be complete filmographies but represent the specific perspectives which course organisers will be seeking to develop.
Connections to collections of films made under the Nazi Regime 1933-1945
Northwestern University USA
November 15, 2006
In 2003 Antje Aschied published Hitler’s Heroines: Stardom and Womanhood in Nazi Cinema. The hyperlinked review of the book is quite scathing about the methods behind the book arguing, correctly in my view, that there was a lack of historical contextualisation and and over-reliance on textual analysis devoid of anything else to claim that aspects of the text could be read as ruptures and disjunctures in the approach of Nazism to wards femininity.
Textual analysis is an important research tool which itself can be informed by a range of methodologies. Nevertheless there is a tension between textual and contextual which is very hard to resolve. Here Erica Carter’s excellent review article of relatively recent textual analytical approaches to film history makes the point very clearly in her summing up. Despite the excellence and usefulness of the books she is reviewing which rely upon analysis of few texts in minute detail: What however, of those methodologies from the field of film studies – genre, star and auteur studies, for instance – in which the single text is decentered and made part of larger systems of signification? (Carter, 1999, p 583).
Well it isn’t rocket science to note that there were contradictory features within Nazism indeed David Kershaw argues that Hitler deliberately encouraged competition amongst his followers on a divide and rule basis.
Only picking three stars to study seems like a flawed method if one wishes to draw conclusions about the Nazi attitude to women. The three stars in question: Kristina Soederbaum, Zarah Leander and Lilian Harvey were not true Aryans in of German stock, two being Swedish and one English. Any study would only be firmly based if comparative work was done across all the leading actresses.
Furthermore the key element of audinece is missing from the equation. As reviewer Jana Bruns scathingly and rhetorically asks:“is it conceivable, for example, that stars like Leander, Soederbaum and Harvey damaged the regime by unraveling Nazi gender essentialism and allowing viewers to align with different identities?”
Whilst textual methods of research can be extremly useful it is usually better to triangulate research across several methods. Qualitative types of audience research should be obligatory when the issues are as high stake as close analysis of the ideological functioning of Nazism and its successes and failures.
It seems worthwhile to at least contextualise a little. The position of Soederbaum is intersting to say the least. She was a star alongside Veit Harlan in the infamous rabid anti-semitic piece of direct propaganda Jud Suss which was also directed by Harlan. (Soererabum was also Harlan’s wife). The audiences were clearly so disrupted by the transgressive nature of woman that they rushed out and rescued all the Jewish women in concentration camps.
As if that particular piece of propaganda context were not enough Soederbaum also stars in another Veit Harlan foray into direction into direction Kolberg. Please see introduction to the film on this blog for more details.
This was an enormous propaganda exercise which was being made in the teeth of total collapse of the regime on all military fronts. Nevertheless the propaganda value was considered so important that large number of front-line troops were used as extras and the budget was huge. From the perspective of -unraveling Nazi gender essentialism_ the issues were rather more serious for the average German with the Soviets knocking at the door of Berlin and British and American troops rapidly thrusting deep into German territory over the Rhine.
Out of the 35,000 books on the Nazi regime this one may not get to the top of the pile.
The history of the institutional aspects of cinema is interesting and the film studios in Babelsberg a suburb of Berlin which became so famous between the wars started in 1911 in a derelict factory surrounded by some wasteland by the nascent film company Bioscop who were to produce some famous films with Asta Nielsen the Danish Actress.
Babelsberg is still in use today after being taken over by DEFA after 1945.
The Goethe Institute is informative about today’s Babelsberg based German film industry.
Erich Pommer & Weimar Cinema
Erich Pommer was one of the most important people in Weimar cinema. Pommer first founded and was head of Decla responsible for the production. when Decla later merged with Ufa Pommer was head of production.
Pommer’s original start in film was with the
Once the war had started he became the co-founder of Decla-Filmgesellschaft, producing a range of serials in popular genres such as detectives and romances.
In 1920 Decla joins with Bioscop to form the second largest German film company after Ufa.
That Pommer was extremely important is evidenced by the description below found on the Deutsche film portal site:
With Die Spinnen and Das Cabinett des Dr. Caligari he made Decla the home for exceptionally gifted directors like Fritz Lang and Robert Wiene. To fulfil his aim of establishing a German film industry which could compete with Hollywood on an artistic, technical and commercial level, he continuously was on the look for new talent. His vision led to lasting creative relationships with maverick directors like Lang and Murnau, with whom Pommer shaped the face of Weimar Cinema as it is remembered and renowned today.
From 1919 he was familiar with Fritz Lang. Pommer produced Pest in Florenz Dir. Rippert, 1919 with a screenplay by Lang. Later that year he produced Harakiri and Halbblut both directed and with screenplay by Lang. He then produced the adventure series die Spinnen directed by Lang.
Pommer always had a twin-track approach to the films that were made. On the one hand UFA turned out the genre films of mass culture whilst on the other hand favoured directors were allowed to establish director led units making more artistic and experimental films for the more intellectual audiences of Weimar and for export. Directors with this favoured status included Fritz Lang and later F. W. Murnau.
Many classic films of the Weimar period followed including,
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919 / 20) directed by Wiene, Destiny, (1921) and the two parter Dr Mabuse directed by Lang (1921 / 22). He worked with Murnau firstly on Phantom (1922) and later on The Last Laugh (1924), . and then Tartuffe (1925). Tartuffe was seemingly an attempt to create a film with an appeal to the French market as this market opened up following rapprochement between the two countries as post-war enmities subsided. The film has not been considered as one of Murnau’s better works and the various attempts to create a successful unified market failed.
He worked with Lang on Metropolis (1925 / 26) which infamously overran its budget and was an attempt to create a blockbuster to bleak into the US Market. In the same year he worked again with Murnau on Faust.
In 1926 Pommer went to work in the USA. He returned to work for UFA which had by then been taken over by Hugenberg who had put Gustav Klitzsch in charge. UFA now worked on a central producer system with the producer keeping a very tight control on budgets and shooting schedules.
In 1928 and 1928 / 29 he worked with Joe May on Heimkehr and then Asphalt. All of these were still working for Ufa.
In 1929 / 30 Pommer produced von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel, yet another film classic, still working for Ufa. In 1930 he produced Robert Siodmak’s Der Mann, der seinen Morder sucht.
Pommer continued to work for Ufa despite the ownership of Hugenberg up until 1932 when he produced his last film for them. Pommer left Germany, going firstly to France, then to Britain and then on to Hollywood. He didn’t produce another film in Germany until 1951.
In Britain Alexander Korda had attracted a number of European filmmakers including Erich Pommer. Pommer formed a production company with Charles Laughton, Mayflower Pictures.
Pommer was undoubtedly an entrepreneurial spirit who also liked good films. Historically he is the only figure who has had enough concentrated power, skill and entrepreneurial skills to challenge the rise of Hollywood in the post first world war period. Circumstances were always against him. His attempts to create ‘Cinema Europe’ to both resist and challenge Hollywood fell on infertile ground.
Films Associated with Erich Pommer
May Joe: Heimkehr (1928)
Murnau F. W. : Phantom (1922)
Murnau F. W. : Tartuffe (1925)
Murnau F. W. : The Last Laugh (1924)
Lang Fritz: Dr Mabuse both parts (1921 / 22)
Rippert (Screenpalay Fritz Lang): Pest in Florenz 1919
Siodmak Robert : Der Mann, der seinen Morder sucht. (1930)
Wiene: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919 / 20)
A Useful Link To "German Department Resource at Dartmouth ":http://www.dartmouth.edu/~germ43/resources/biographies/pommer-e.html
November 14, 2006
Here are some interesting links on the Internet dealing with films not covered in this term’s program.
Academic Anton Kaes and a useful bibliography of a leading German film scholar
Article from leading German studies academic Miriam Hansen on modernism and vernacular cinema
Forthcoming New Books on German cinema from Berghan Press
Out more than 1,000 feature films produced during the Nazi period relatively few were directly propagandistic. As both Petley and Taylor have noted Goebbels was concerned with developing covert rather than overt ideological content: ‘At the moment propaganda is recognised as such, it becomes ineffective’, said Goebbels. One of the most notable directly propagandist films includes Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935). It was a huge Nazi rally choreographed to fit in with the film, which can be seen as the nadir of Fascism. While this film is often classed as a ‘documentary’ this underplays the importance of the cinema in the creation of the event itself. It was a huge spectacle carefully designed to be filmed as a part of an emotive and overwhelming display of power. Reifenstahl discussed aspects of the spectacle and how it could best be filmed with Hitler himself. The film is now best considered as an historical document which is evidence of how Nazism consolidated its power both in the content and simultaneous control of the media it can also be directly linked to the principle of Fuhrerprinzip. The film’s importance in relation to the consolidation of Nazi power after 1933 means that a separate analysis will be given
Riefenstahl also produced films which glorified the idealised Aryan body in Olympia (1938). Olympia used 45 cameras some suspended from balloons shooting 400 hours of footage edited down to 4 hours.
As an actor Riefenstahl also contributed to the Mountain-film genre starring in many of Arnold Fanck’s films such as Storm Over Mont Blanc /Avalanche (1930) which was a part of the national mythology.
Recent analysis of the more generic film output has challenged earlier work by people such as Erwin Leiser who considered that most cinematic output of this type was ‘distractive entertainment’. Rather it is important to analyse how a culture of everyday fascism was ideologically developed through this cinematic output.
It is very important to consider the cinematic texts within the overall contextual situation of the politics and economic situation of the time. The film industry and its products need to be considered as a substantive part of a range of mutually interacting ideologically driven media strategies in which the viewing and exhibitionary conditions are an important part. The task for the analyst as Rentschler sees it is to comprehend the way in which films interacted with and resonated within larger social constellations.
The Nazi Star System within Genres
The commercial need for a star system to compete with Hollywood had already been established and under the Hugenberg ownership of Ufa this approach had been successful prior to the Nazi government. Cinema in Third Reich continued this trend. Any star system has the function of collapsing the boundaries between persona and character. The projection of audience desire and anxieties onto stars has an important ideological function of this style of cinema. Along with the more obvious hierarchical elements of star systems this was fundamental to Nazi cinema and the huge salaries and regal treatment afforded to the recognised stars ensured that they were not lured to Hollywood.
The salaries paid were unsustainable so the Nazi government effectively subsidised their opulent lifestyles. The discourses of stardom in the media and their lifestyle which was exotic and glamorous, provided an outlet for pent-up desires. As much as anything it is this aspect of Nazi cinema which can be compared with Horkheimer and Adorno in their analysis of the ‘Culture Industry’: “Pleasure always means not to think about anything, to forget suffering even where it is shown. Basically it is helplessness. It is flight; not, as is asserted, flight from a wretched reality, but from the last remaining thought of resistance.” (Horkheimer & Adorno: The Culture Industry, p 144).
Under American Liberalism the culture industry served the needs of monopoly capitalism whilst in authoritarian regimes it served the interests of the state and its controlling elites more directly. Whichever way it is considered, ‘It’s only entertainment’, as a statement functions as an ideological chimera.
There was a fundamental paradox in Nazi cinema that many of the female stars acted more as an exoticised and eroticised pole of attraction based upon non-Aryan models of womanhood. Indeed many were foreign. This analysis of the Nazi star system drawn from Sabine Hake appears to be directly contradictory to that of Jill Branston who has drawn heavily on the work of Erica Carter. Branston suggests that the propaganda demands of the Nazis laid an emphasis upon ‘the biological-racial essence of character, which ‘should’ correspond to external appearance via cinematic realism.’
Above the Swedish actress Zarah Leander in a costume drama. A genre often considered as inherently conservative. Below another Swedish actress Kristina Soederbaum in one of the most blatantly propagandistic and overtly anti-semitic films of the Nazi era directed by Veit Harlan. Here the ‘historical’ costume drama is undoubtedly linked to a Nazi agenda.
The development of genres was important as a way of wooing and keeping popular audiences ‘ One of the main psychological functions of genre in general is to produce specific emotions (joy, fear, sadness) and process them through predetermined forms that offer imaginary solutions to social problems’ . During the Third Reich the genre range was intentionally limited. Crime, thrillers and courtroom dramas were seen as drawing attention to taboo subjects and therefore no investment was forthcoming in these genres.
Directors who were committed Nazis became associated mainly with the historical and biographical film. Comedy is also an interesting area of cinema to consider with about half the feature length films produced in Germany after 1933 being comedy hybrids such as rustic comedies and musical comedies. Of these hybrids the white collar comedies managed to retain some of their social awareness.
The Comedy Genre
It has been argued that far from being harmless entertainment ‘comedy functioned to make German film audiences emotionally pliable for a propagandistic consensus constructed across all media discourses.’ This can be seen as a double aesthetic strategy. On the one hand the strategy functioned to separate the unacceptable characters to the regime from ‘legitimate’ society. At the same time the way the comedy operated institutionalised the norms of Nazi ideology in ways which easily translated into the everyday life of much of the population.
It has been noted that the visual aspects of the comedy was subordinated to the verbal which allowed for more control of the text giving a stronger preferred reading. This has been compared to the more visually based comedic output of US cinema. For example, Horak notes the career of Heinz Ruhman which traversed Weimar, Nazi and the Bonn periods. Ruhman’s character was always seemingly subverting order in order to grab a piece of power for himself and thus integrate himself into the status quo. Ruhman’s roles are frequently infantilist after 1933 but without the subversive potential which Horak assigns to US infantilist comedians such as Stan Laurel.
Below two images of Ruhman.
By comparison with the Hollywood infantilists Ruhman’s infantilism is a repression of sexuality in favour of lavatorial humour. Horak suggests that German comedians from Ruhman to Hans Moser to Heinz Erhardt are de-erotisised or emasculated. Horak further argues that this may be because Nazi culture extolling the woman’s role as mother has removed sexual discourse from the cinema. This fits in with Horak’s hypothesis that sexual desire is entirely repressed in Nazi cinema which functions to ensure the culture of sacrifice for the Fatherland.
Please follow link for article on Musical Comedies under Nazism
Other genres that continued to be popular were the Bergfilm (mountain film) and the Heimat genre. Nether of the genres originated with the Third Reich but both were comfortably adaptable to Nazi ideologies. Fanck’s Bergfilm comedies of the Weimar period often featured Leni Riefenstahl. Both the White Ecstasy (1931) and The Big Leap (1927), concentrate on the physicality of the ski race thus repressing sexuality. The comedy lacks the anti-authoritarianism of Hollywood slapstick.
Audience and Distribution
From the above review we can see that there are currently differences of analysis of Nazi cinema. There is a need to pay more attention to the concerns of audience and the patterns of distribution of various types of film. For example in Hollywood cinema it is well known that ‘B’ movie Westerns were mainly targeted at male rural and small town audiences. Discovering which films were distributed to which parts of Germany would help deepen the analysis of how the Nazi media strove to create a Nazi imaginary in both major industrial cities which had sophisticated audiences and isolated rural areas. As a sub-genre of rural comedies has been identified a useful research development would be to find out if they were screened in large cities and whether they were considered popular.
The evidence proffered by Taylor in his analysis of ‘Triumph of the Will’ (which is largely regurgitated in the notes on the recently released DVD), suggests that it did very well in the Ufa first run cinemas in the major cities of Nazi Germany, yet it was relatively unsuccessful in the more rural parts of the country. This is anomalous because we know that the Nazis failed to win the political control of any major industrial city while there were proper elections. We also know that the mass consistent political base of Nazism came from the rural and small town areas of Germany. What explains the apparent success of this overtly propagandistic film in the large cities? Given the Nazis effectiveness at organising ‘Mass Ornament’ and the fundamental importance of the content in consolidating Nazi control the machinery was simply not going to allow it to be a failure. Were the mass of Nazi supporters bussed into the big city cinemas? There is room here for further research.
Overall it seems clear that a useful area of further research would analyse more closely the patterns of distribution of the particular types of films and their target audiences. There is plenty of evidence that the Nazis were good at targeting different audiences in their political campaigning to gain power, which gives the analyst good cause to believe that they recognised that audience was never going to be totally homogenised but more heterogeneous. The problem here becomes developing a range of films with a consistent Nazi-approved content that appeals to a wide range of audiences.
To solve this problem it seems likely that, as in other countries, the multi-generic or genre-hybrid film which is likely to have the most highly paid stars will be constructed in such a way as to appeal to a broader spectrum of people in relation to their class and intellectual background and Hake specifically use the term ‘cosmopolitan atmosphere’ required for commercial success across the domestic and international markets. The use of the term ‘cosmopolitan’ has a certain irony as on Peter Wollen’s analysis ‘cosmopolitan’ as a term tends to refer to mobility of Jewishness. It leaves me with the question of whether the numbers of films with exoticised and eroticised stars was more of an urban than a rural phenomenon?
There is some evidence that use of the cinema to promote certain ideological priorities as the Nazis consolidated and developed their grip on Germany can be discerned in certain key films. Riefenstahl’s documentary style Triumph of the Will can be seen as directly corresponding to the myth of Nazism that they had directly seized power. This rather contradicts the reality that Hitler was placed into the position of Chancellor by sleight of hand and collusion by von Papen and others. This was done at a time when the support for the Nazis was beginning to wane and the organisation was facing bankruptcy after two election campaigns in 1932. At the time they thought they could muzzle the Nazis and use them for their own ends.
This was followed by Riefenstahl’s Olympia, again a documentary style paean to the idealised Nazi body which can be directly linked to the main ideological campaign of ‘Gleichschaltung’ the so-called ‘co-ordination’ of all political, economic and cultural activities. The Berlin Olympics was the perfect vehicle to celebrate ideologies of youth, purity and fitness, which can ultimately be linked to the Nazi eugenics programme which had been rapidly installed to deal with ‘unhealthy Aryans’ soon after the Nazis came to power. This also corresponds to the obsession with health and hygiene.
Cinema and Euthanasia
The issue of eugenics and resistance to some of the most outrageous aspects of this came to the fore in 1941. In August Bishop Galen the Bishop of Munster delivered a sermon detailing how innocent sick people were being murdered with their families being given false death notices. Copies of the sermon were delivered throughout the Reich, the RAF dropped copies of the sermon over German cities and Burleigh cites responses from an officer in northern Lapland reporting that his soldiers had received copies of the sermon. Galen was too popular for the Nazis to simply take him out and as a result a major ideological response came from the cinema with the release of Ich Klage an (I Accuse) (1941, dir Liebeneiner, which presented a case for ‘mercy killing’ or involuntary euthanasia.
The subsequent trial becomes a showcase for the Nazi position utilising some of the best known stars of the cinema at the time. According to Welch (2002) the audience reception was generally positive. Reports of the SD (Security police) indicate that members of the poorer classes were sympathetic on financial grounds as the sick would have been a ‘burden’.
The Catholic clergy in the south were particularly resistant to the film and encouraged their congregations to avoid it. They interpreted the film as a direct response to Galen’s sermon. Apparently some younger doctors viewed the film favourably. The film attracted 18 million viewers which for Welsh ‘Reveals an alarming flight from reality, a willingness on the part of German audiences to delegate responsibility, and a reluctance to face the moral consequences of their actions.’ Welsh, 2002: p 91).
Whilst the general output of the Nazified film industry largely ignored the Jewish in a form of structured absence, a number of key anti-Semitic films were released towards the end of the 1930s and into the wartime period. These coincided with the increasingly militant campaign against the Jews being conducted by the Nazis. Kristallnacht in early November 1938 has become infamous and marked the beginning of a new phase of anti-Semitism which became constructed as the ‘Jewish Question’. Welsh argues that film was co-ordinated with other parts of the mass media to conduct an ideological / propaganda campaign of anti-Semitism. The first of these were Robert and Bertram (1939) and Leinen aus Irland (1939). Both work within the comedy genre to caricature Jews as subhuman. In the same year Goebbels banned the term ‘anti-Semitic’ replacing it with the expression ‘defence against the Jews’.
In Bismark (1940), dir Liebeneiner the hybrid genre form of Biopic and celebration of German heritage sees an assassination attempt by a Jew on Bismark. Below images from Bismark (1940).
1940 also saw the release of three of the most infamous anti-Semitic films produced by the Nazis: Die Rothchilds, Jud Suss, Der ewige Jude (The Wandering Jew). Arguably these films were produced to help justify and rationalise the process of deporting Jews from Austria and Czechoslovakia to Poland.
These films were marketed under the guise of being ‘factual’. Jud Suss is the story of a Jew conducting a political machination in Wurttemburg. The story ends with the hanging of Suss and the banning of Jews from Stuttgart in 1738. Bringing together Nazi themes under the guise of popular entertainment the SD reports on favourable audience responses and Goebbels considered the film a success from the popularity of it. We don’t know who stayed away from these screenings. In Heimkehr (1941) Jews are represented as encouraging the Poles to commit atrocities against German minorities.
The cinema of the Third Reich saw the development of a monopolistic system in which the interests of the main industrial players and the NSDAP became merged. The period saw the rationalisation of the industry turning it into a highly profitable enterprise with a core strategy of developing an industry able to compete with Hollywood. The industry willingly complied immediately with Nazi norms of anti-Trade unionism and anti-Semitism. Many of the more authoritarian ideas of the Nazis in both content and management of the industry are likely to be discovered in a study of Ufa after its take-over by the extreme nationalist Hugenberg during the late Weimar period.
The ideological leanings of its products were strongly different to Hollywood and the output of other democracies. Holding a position of covert rather than overt ideology to win hearts and minds many genres were repressed, replaced and reinvented. Genre was used as an ideological tool even in the realm of comedy which is often associated with subversion and transgression. Within the genres themselves sexuality was repressed and replaced with the aestheticised body, which could serve the Fatherland as either soldier or idealised mother. It seemingly displayed a Fascist utopianism in which social problems were removed by magic by not being discussed at all.
In Nazi Germany the conditions of exhibition further supported the ideological nature of the content with their strongly ‘preferred readings’ based upon Nazi ideologies. Jews had been banned from cinemas and people were unable to come late to the shows which always had propaganda and newsreels on first. The weight of contemporary criticism now sees Nazi cinema holistically as an ideological machine, covering all aspects of the institution of cinema from production, regulation, audience, content, criticism, aesthetics and finance. This is in contradiction to earlier work which saw the generic output such as comedies as simple distractions.
Textually-based readings which argue that individual films can be seen to contain ‘ruptures and contradictions’ fail to contextualise and consider the mutually performative nature of all the key parameters of Nazi cinema as an institution in which all aspects of the media institutions worked within a totalising policy environment devoted to fostering a Nazi ideologically based concept of the everyday. There are those who take a different perspective including Antje Ashied.
Textually based readings across a wide range of texts should be able to discern a distinctively fascist aesthetic which aestheticised politics and the body in what might be termed as ‘hyper-naturalistic’ in other words a representation of ‘natural’ which is far more than natural. Nazi cinema eschewed cinematic techniques such as montage. Where possible it privileged the verbal over the visual with the exception of highly choreographed distinctly propagandist products.
Much of the research work has been focused upon Nazi feature films yet the role of newsreels and documentaries also needs to be analysed more rigorously. The figures used by Rentschler providing an overview of Nazi cinema also show up some interesting features which could be usefully investigated further. It is not until 1936, three years into the Nazi regime long after the unemployment rate had been radically reduced that the German cinema has recovered so that both ticket sales and gross income exceed the figures of 1929. This seems to indicate that at this time there wasn’t an enormous amount of enthusiasm for Nazi style cinema in the early years of the regime.
An interesting pair of figures that emerges is the enormous increase in both cinemas and box -office numbers between the years 1938 and 1939. The rise in box-office figures can be explained by interest in the newsreels during the early and successful part of the war. Presumably families of soldiers would wish to keep up to date about events. Also of interest is the huge rise in the number of cinemas of approximately 1,500 in the space of a year. This is unlikely to have been driven by purely commercial factors and provides an indicator about just how important a role the Nazi cultural policy makers thought cinema could play. Given that there is evidence from elsewhere that Hitler was expecting to fight a major European war in the very early 1940s it is not unreasonable to speculate that this massive growth of cinema building which ran parallel to the growing Nazification of the content of the films once they had consolidated their power was part of a coherent strategy which understood Nazi cinema functioning simultaneously as an ideological battering ram and a growing global cultural industry.
Overall there is still much work which needs to be done to tease out the full extent of how cinema was developed for Nazi ends during the time of the regime. It is a cinema which was in many ways more invidious than the purely propaganda models recognise and it was built into the structure of the industry as well as the content itself. The content across all cinematic genres was being designed consciously or unconsciously to promote everyday Nazism in ways which no other regime has ever done.