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May 15, 2008

One of Our Aircraft is Missing, 1942: Dir. Powell and Pressburger

One of Our Aircraft is Missing, 1942: Dir. Powell and Pressburger


The film was being made in early 1942 and was reviewed by The Monthly Film Bulletin (Volume 9 no 100 April 1942). As a propaganda film it functioned on several different levels. The crew was mixed by region and class with a Yorshireman from Halifax and Welshman both of whom were 'chapel' (although not averse to a glass of Bols when being rescued by the Dutch) as well as a more middle-class 'skipper'. The story is about the crew of a Wellington medium bomber who are on a bombing mission to Stuttgart to bomb the Mercedes-Benz factory. They are shot down and parachute into Holland where the Dutch locals decide they are genuine British aircrew and help them to escape. After a series of adventures where they are in constant danger of discovery they eventually make their way back to Britain. The film opens with a story of 5 Dutchmen in the summer of 1941 being executed by the Nazis for helping British aircrew to escape. The information was released by the Dutch government in exile. The film was dedicated to the Dutch at the end.

The film was nominated in the American Academy Awards and it was in general very well made with David Lean as its editor which helped Lean to become joint directer of In Which We Serve with Noel Coward later in 1942.  Lean already had the reputation of being the best editor in the UK at the time. Cinematopgaphy was also handled by Ronald Neame and there was an Oscar nomination for Special Effects. (Strangely the Screenonline entry for Neame doesn't credit One of Our Aircraft is Missing. The associate cinematographer was Bob Krasker later to become renowned for his work in The Third Man (1949). As can be seen the film was given a high priority in terms of having one of the best teams of film-makers / technicians available in the UK at the time.

Democratisation and Documentarism

In the new edition of Britain Can Take It (2007) the chapter dealing with Class and Nation p 315 notes that it is 'commonplace' that the two major changes introduced into British cinema during the war years were democratisation and documentarism.  Here they note that the critic Roger Manvell first introduced this idea pointing to 1942 as a turning point for the production and reception of this type of film. Given that One of Our Aircraft is Missing takes both aspects of this analysis on board and was already being shot in 1941 we can place the shifts in society earlier than this. Furthemore Powell and Pressburger took this on board even earlier with The 49th Parallel (1941). This film emphasises the importance of tolerance and democracy in Canada and links this with religious tolerance and democracy in the USA. This gives some indication of the underlying importance of the USA in helping to break down class boundaries in the UK. Why after all should Americans risk their lives to defend a system which was still rich in feudal vestiges, and in thrall to aristocracy when that was the sort of thing their grandparents and greatgrandparents had escaped from in Europe itself? It was something that was also alluded to in the Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and also A Canturbury Tale (1944). In many ways reading Powell and Pressburger's wartime output as films aimed primarily at American eyes and sentiments rather than gung-ho empire stuff explains what might seem to be a little wayward in their approach. 

Full Synopsis

Wellington Bomber

A Wellington Bomber  

The film's opening sequence is an abandoned Wellington bomber which is still flying and gradually losing height. It eventually flies into a pylon exploding. The viewer is taken back fifteen hours when the aircrews at the airbase are given their mission for the night.  Later we see the planes taking off into the darkness at around 9.30 pm on a summer evening expecting to be return around 4.00 pm.

In the bomber 'B for Bertie'we are cleverly introduced to all the crew and their posts as the skipper checks that all the communications are functioning. Their mission is to target the Mercedes-Benz factory in Stuttgart. As they cross the dutch coast they are met by some anti-aircraft fire, and they are instructed to keep a sharp eye out for Nazi fighter planes. As they fly past Mannheim they are again met by anti-aircraft fire and they respond by sending down a few bundles of leaflets. 

As they draw near the target we see a city straddling a river with several fires going in one area. The Bomber circles once and then makes a bombing run and they head for home. Just as they are about to radio to base their plane is hit by anti-aircraft fire and they lose an engine. The pilot decides to try and make it on just one engine and they plot the shortest route home. The single engine starts to struggle and the plane gradually loses speed and height. Eventually they decide to bail out over Holland.  Their plan before they jump is to land near a railway line which they can then all follow so that they will be able to meeet up.

The film cuts to the scene the next morning. Five of the crew are amongst some trees with one having climbed up to spy out the land. They are missing one member of the crew. They are interuppted by some children from a nearby farm playing with their dog.  The skipper of the plane was a diplomat before the war and had some rudimentary Dutch and slightly better German. They were able to communicate with the children and establish they are friendly.

The film cuts to the crew waiting in a farm house while the local inhabitants are discssing what to do in another room. The local teacher who is a good English speaker enters keen to establish that they are actually British and not Nazis in disguise acting as agents provocateurs. Once they have established that they are bona fide British aircrew then they are invited to sit down to  an excellent meal. After that an escape plan is worked out for the. In the first instance they dress up as both Dutch men and women and cycle to the local Catholic church a few kilometres away. All the time the Nazis are out looking for them as we see an armoured vehicle tearing up the country road. Eventually the Nazis come to the church but the locals bluff it out. The group are then taken to a football match where by more than simple coincidence they meet their missing comrade who is a professional footballer who is playing for the visiting village team. 

United once again and narrowly avoiding being given away to the Nazis by a Quisling they hide in a lorry which is going to the port to get some supplies via Mrs de Vries who is a leading member of the Dutch resistance who is masquerading as a Quisling too. She has arranged for a boat and after hiding them under the noses of the Nazis. When there is an airraid this gives them a chance to escape by rowing past a swing bridge and then out to a buoy a few miles off shore which is there to provide shelter for Nazi aircrew who had to bail out.

The escape is dangerous and one of the crew is badly injured as they row fast to make a getaway. They make it to the buoy where there are two German aircrew who have signalled for the Nazi 'E' boats to come and rescue them.  The crew of B for Bertie have cut the Buoy adrift and are eventually rescued by a British fast patrol boat. 

The closing scene is the crew once again lined up ready to go on a mission only this time the planes behind them are the new Lancaster bombers, which were much larger, faster, with a longer rangeand better defended next stop Berlin says the film's last line, nowhere in Germany will now be a safe haven.  The significance is clear, they will be be back to free the oppressed Dutch and the other occupied countries of Europe. The Lancaster bombers were released in early 1942 which situates the film as being placed in the summer of 1941

Dutch Resistance Carnation Day June 1940

Dutch Resistance needed to be passive and symbolic. In June 1940 there was a mass 'Carnation Day' as an identification with the Dutch monarchy.  

The Bombing of Nazi Germany

The film was made at a time when Britain was getting fed up with 'taking it' and needed a morale booster that it was dishing it out a bit as well. The idea that Germany was beginning to receive some punishment from the air after all the trials and tribulations of the London Blitz and the bomber raids on many other British cities it would have helped audiences to feel that progress was beginning to be made with regard to the prosecution of the War. According to the BBC website by February 1942 British Bomber Command had realied how inaccurate its bombing attempts were and it therefore decided to go for an 'area' bombing approach: 

... in February 1942, Bomber Command was instructed to shift the focus onto the 'morale of the enemy civil population'. This new policy came to be called 'area bombing'.
The aiming points thereafter, for bombing raids, were no longer military or industrial installations, but a church or other significant spot in the centre of industrial towns. And since fire was found to be the most effective means of destroying a town, the bombers now carried mainly incendiary bombs. [Detlef Siebert]

By the time the film was released it was certainly being 'economical with the truth' as the impression given by the film was one in which civilians got a dose of leaflets as 'B' for Bertie was on its way to Stuttgart with the end of bombing a factory clearly associated with the Nazi war effort. There could be no moral dilemmas established amongst the British population there. Presumably a film pronouncing proudly a wartime policy of  destrying significant numbers of civilians wouldn't go down so well especially in the United States. 

Rear Gun Turret Wellington bomber

Rear gun turret of a Wellington bomber, Powell and Pressburger did a good job representing the cramped and dangerous conditions for the aircrew.

Continental Resistance

A core element of the film was promoting the bravery and determination of populations under Nazi occupation in this case it was the Dutch who were were being given fine coverage. A crucial speech from Mrs Jo de Vries who has organised the escaping aircrew a boat, quite literally from under the Nazis noses is particularly important in helping to promote the British bombing campaign later to be joined by the Americans: 

You see, that's what you are doing for us. Can you hear them running for shelter, can you understand what that means to all the occupied countries, to enslaved people having it drummed into their ears that the Germans are masters of the earth, seeing these masters running for shelter, seeing them crouching under tables and hearing that steady hum, night after night, that noise which is oil for the burning fire in our hearts.  (Jo de Vries in One of Aircraft is Missing)

It is a speech aimed primarily at British and American ears it both justifies the bombing of cities and brings hope that this will crack the morale of the Nazis who at this stage in the war haven't faced a military set-back of any significance.


Some of the analysis from the small amount of properly critical analysis available on this film does have a few small inaccuracies. The analysis from the Screenonline reviewer suggests the following piece of textual analysis:  

The low position of the camera, looking admiringly up at the airmen, reinforces their heroism.

In fact this introductory sequence to the crew is not quite accurate as there were different camera positions used depending on the task of the crew. The low angles were used on the pilots who naturally sat in a higher place within the aircraft.

Another slight inaccuracy I have noted is in  some comments by Murphy  (Realism and Tinsel, 1992 p 21). Having quoted the paragraph above spoken by Jo de Vries taken from the film Murphy comments that it was found to be counterproductive to bomb in occupied countries. Whilst this was certainly the case it is not a relevant comment in relation to this film as B for Bertie was bombing Germany. When the allies did bomb targets in occupied territores like Rotterdam it tended to be large and important  targets like the port areas which were easy to hit. Alternatively there were some very special raids on prisons holding important resistance leaders. These were well planned and usedd 'pathfinder' planes to ensure accuracy.

As well as being a useful film on the home front One of Our Aircraft is Missing providing tangible evidence of a fight back, can be seen as being designed with American audiences in mind. As Murphy has pointed out once the Nazis had invaded the rest of Europe a number of films featuring resistance to the Nazis were developed. One of Our Aircraft is Missing made with the help of the Dutch government in exile was one of these. The film is cleverly made to feel real by the use of real Dutch people including children so the the dialogue scenes are realistic. any visitor to the fenlands and Licolnshire will also notice the Dutch influenced vernacular architecture for it was Dutch engineeers who helped reclaimed these low lying parts of the country from the sea.

The film was convincingly made overall although one reviewer has commented that it didn't hang together very well at times. This was the case when the local Quisling came into the house of the villagers after the football match. It was a little bit too staged. It was done to clearly make a point particularly I think to American audiences who would have been unaware of many of the issues in Europe for at the time the film was being shot America hadn't entered the war, although they had by the time it was released.

In many ways the film functions as a mirror of Powell and Pressburger's 49th Parallel (1941). This too was clearly made with the American market in mind and follows the attempted escape of the survivors of a U-Boat crew. Whereas in The 49th Parallel the local  Canadian population including the German emigrés in the Hutterite community engage in a convincing and hostile way with Nazi ideology each cameo in One of Our Aircraft is Missing brings out a facet of the determination of resistance to the Nazis. At the same time there is no hatred of the ordinary German in the film, quite the reverse. Two of the air-crew of the Wellington bomber have had German girlfriends and one has even visited Stuttgart and knows its history and has a smattering of German language. This good German bad Nazi pattern was an important feature of propaganda films aimed at America for there was a large German speaking population in America  who needed to be influenced. Of course Pressburger the scriptwriter had worked in Germany for many years and was very familiar the real situation on the ground which meant that these aspects of the scripts were handled from experience. Millions of Germans of course were not Nazis. 

During the escape the aircrew have to takke on a viariety of guises in order to pass unnoticed. At one point one of the crew who is an actor in peacetime dresses up as a Dutch woman whilst those staying as men put on clogs in order to pass as locals. Moor (2005 p 52) conflates these activities with those of the son of one of those helping them get away who after being bribed by the Quisling to take records to the Nazi guards swaps them for some of the Dutch National anthem, clearly in a way designed to get the Quisling into trouble thus brining in a sense of humour to the film as well as underscoring that the vast majority of the population were trying their best to resist in any way they could just as the crowd of villagers all moved off from the football match thus 'confusing' the Nazis. Sadly Moor's reading of this becomes an attempt to fit activities often taken on in real life as "...instances of role-playing and rebranding" which:

inch towards a postmodern sensibility... (Moor, 2005 p 52)

One of the more ridiculous comments I have seen about a Second World War film! Naturally postmodernists can read texts how they like and generate lots of rather aberrant meanings for themselves, however it takes us a long way from what I strongly suspect Powell and Pressburger had as preferred readings. As someone who as a teenager read many of the escape stories of the time these seemed obvious things to do suited to the times. It is hardly nanotechnology to note that society is a set of social constructions which can be subverted. Identity is thus always potentially malleable. The point is that the attempts by the Nazis to reconstruct Dutch society were continuously being undermined even at the micro-level.  

Audience Reception

Murphy in Realism and Tinsel (p 20) implies that this film along with others he had identified in the resistance cycle didn't do very well at the box office however the entry on the film in the IMDB differs from this analysis.

According to IMDB Academy Awards page for 1943 the film received a nomination for best writing original screenplay. In the same year the 49th Parallel received a nomination for best film as well as winning an award for 'Best Writing Original Story' category. This film also received a 'Best Writing: Screenplay' nomination. One of Our Aircraft is Missing gained a 'Special Effects' nomination.  

Academy Awards, USA
Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s)
1943 Nominated Oscar Best Effects, Special Effects
Ronald Neame (photographic)
C.C. Stevens (sound)

Best Writing, Original Screenplay
Michael Powell
Emeric Pressburger

Table taken from IMDB entry to One of Our Aircraft is Missing

Stuttgart 1945 

Stuttgart 1945

By 1945 it was hard to tell one German city from another. They had all been turned into rubble by the relentless Allied air raids. Ironically the bombing of these cities didn't have a great deal of effect on the industrial capacity of the country, for under Albert Speer's reorganisation many of the industries were dispersed away from poulation centres. Many of the those considered most valuable were sited underground where tunnels had been dug out by slave labour from the occupied countries. Others were in the countryside. Industrial production increased until 1944. The other irony of the bombing of industrial cities was that the populations of these had never put the Nazis into power. The Nazis never won a popular free vote in any of the major industrial cities on their way to power. The real centres of Nazi support in small town Germany were relatively unscathed. 

What Really Was the Situation in Holland During the War? 

Film maker Paul Verhoeven has a very different perspective on the realities of the war. Interviewed for the Daily Telegraph about his recent film about collaboration in the Second World War Black Book he comments:

There were some good Resistance people," argues Verhoeven, "but there were a lot of people who didn't do anything. In 1942, the Dutch had nearly accepted being part of Germany; that was the general tone at that time. Then, after Stalingrad, it started to dawn on people that it might go the other way. And then those who'd been working with the Germans and had filthy hands started to move as fast as possible to the Resistance." (My emphasis: Verhoeven in Daily Telegraph)

Verhoeven is known for being outspoken and the Dutch Resistance Museum provides a good basis of knowledge. The section on the Second World War gives a good overview of the pressures exerted by the Nazis including the mass evacuation of the coastal regions to build a defensive wall. 

Select Bibliography

Aldgate, Anthony and Richards, Jeffrey. 2007(New Edition). Britain Can Take It. London: I. B. Tauris 

Moor, Andrew. 2005. Powell and Pressburger: A Cinema of Magic Spaces. London: I. B. Tauris 

Murphy, Robert. 1992. Realism and Tinsel. London: Routledge 


Screeonline: Cast and Credits for One of Our Aircraft is Missing

Screenonline: One of Our Aircraft is Missing

Screeononline: Powell & Pressburger the War Years  

Senses of Cinema Powell & Pressburger  

BBC timeline for Holland  

November 18, 2006

Kolberg: Veit Harlen. The last Chapter of Weimar and Nazi cinema

Kolberg: Veit Harlan 1943-1945

a Cast of 87,000 in the Prodigsl Propaganda Historical Drama Kolberg

In this course the argument is being posed that each significant piece of propaganda is analysed according to its target audience bearing in mind the preferred reading which went behind the investment. Propaganda targets will inevitably change with circumstances. Kolberg was demanded when the tide of war had turned and Goebbels recognised that a blockbuster of highly significant proportions would be central in rallying the German people at a time when suddenly they were really starting to realise that wars could go both ways.

Kolberg was in the genre of the historical heroic uplifting where victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat through blood sacrifice. It was June 1943 when Goebbels first ordered Veit Harlan to make Kolberg. By this time the tide of war had taken a significant turn. Only a few months after the defeat at Stalingrad the German Afrika Korps and their Italian allies had surrendered in Tunis. Nearly a quarter of a million troops were lost, half of whom were German. In addition, in May 40 U-Boats had been lost and the Battle of the Atlantic had been effectively lost. Also during these months RAF bombing raids were beginning to break through in greater numbers and cities in the Ruhr region were suffering badly.

The Allies had also demanded unconditional surrender from Germany. There was to be no repeat of the options given at the Treaty of Versailles. In the winter of 1942 at the height of the Stalingrad crisis Hitler had demanded ‘Total War’. In reality the Nazi economy was still not functioning along these lines unlike Britain who as early as 1939 had begun to achieve better production figures than Nazi Germany.

The position of women within the Nazi Germany was at stake. The Kinde, Kuche, Kirche ideology would have to go. Hitler was forced to concede that women would have to be drafted into the war economy. Up until that point out of 8.5 million women working fewer than one million had been working within the armaments industry. (Kershaw, 2000 p 568)

Kristina Soederbaum in Veit Harlan Kolberg

For Goebbels the stakes could not be higher for Kolberg …fits exactly the military and political landscape that we shall probably have to record by the time this film is shown. It was a recognition that the war was not going to be won easily which had been the expectation up until December 1942. (Goebbels, cited Taylor 1998 p 196).

There was effectively no budget limitation, it would take what it would take. Overall it cost 8.5 million Marks which Harlan noted was about eight times the cost of a good film at the time. (Taylor citing Harlan, 1998 p 196). The logistical effort was almost unimaginable, and even more shocking when the dramatically worsening crisis at the front is taken into account. Harlan employed 6,000 horses and 187,000 soldiers at a time when the Red Army had already crossed the border into East Prussia. Harlan’s speculations on the underlying reasons for this prodigality are instructive:

Hitler as well as Goebbels must have been convinced that the distribution of a film like this would be more useful than a military victory. They must have been hoping for a miracle. And what better to perform a miracle than this ‘dream factory’ that is the cinema? (Harlan cited Taylor 1998 p 197)

One is tempted to thoughts that people can become victims of their own propaganda although it seems unlikely that the Nazi High Command could foresee the swiftness of the collapse until well into 1944.

The film itself is set during 1806-1807 at the time when Napoleon was riding roughshod over the German principalities. This was to end in the humiliating Treaty of Tilsit. Historically Kolberg resisted through its formation of a citizens militia. It did eventually succumb and surrender. The film ignored this and also the fact that the British had sent aid to the citizens of this old Hanseatic port town now in Poland. There is no mention in the film of the Treaty of Tilsit and deliberate historical absences rather than a direct falsification of facts was the position taken. The military leader who finally organise the heroic defence was Gneisenau who had had a pocket battleship named after him in the Nazi navy. Gneisenau brings into play the core principle of Hitler’s notion of the Fuhrerprinzip in relation to Frederick stating that it is the leader’s job to lead.

Paul Wegener Kolberg 1943_1945

Paul Wegener plays the defeatist leader of the Military defence who is replaced by Gneisenau at the request of the Mayor representing the heart of the people.

The heroism of the people was the essence of what Goebbels was after and is summarised in the patriotic poem of Korner quoted in the film: The people arise, the storm breaks out. This inspired the name of the citizens militia formed in the last weeks of the Nazi Reich. Children, old men and invalids were armed and called the Volksturm. The film it seems was a precursor of the reality which probably wasn’t quite what the Nazi High-command had expected.

In the film Maria played by Harlan’s wife Kristina Soederbaum provided a romantic interest demanded by Goebbels to attract the generic mass audience. The necessity of sacrifice and stoicism in the face of adversity was emphasised throughout as both her family and love interest are steadily lost through the film. That was to be the woman’s role.

The propagandist effects are pretty standard, building a tale of historical heroism into a lesson for the nation. The rise of the people and the removal of defeatist leaders, heroic resistance against overwhelming odds are standard fare for the genre.

The conditions of exhibition are interesting. The world premier took place in the besieged fortress of La Rochelle on January 30th 1945, with performances in Berlin on the same day. However the main Ufa-Palast am Zoo was already turned into rubble and the film was shown in two smaller cinemas. By the beginning of March the film attracted 200 people to its afternoon showing in a cinema seating over 1,000. The population was already beyond propaganda as the Russians poured over the Elbe. By the 19th of March the real Kolberg had been evacuated and Goebbels noted that this news was not to be released as it would obviously undermine the effects of the film. (Taylor, 1998, p 206). Goebbels was to commit suicide on May 1st along with his wife who had killed the children earlier. After the war Harlan was tried for war crimes based upon his involvement with Jud suss. He was eventually acquitted.

Taylor noted that Goebbels was well aware of the dangers of being overly propagandistic. Entertainment which could help the ideological war in more subtle ways was necessary nevertheless there was a place for directly propagandistic narratives and myths which needed to be produced on the heroic scale required for the heroic demands being required. In that sense Harlan was probably right, for we can argue that the form itself needed to be of a scale of the underlying tasks being asked of its audience.


Kershaw, Ian. 2000. Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis. Harmondsworth: Penguin

Taylor, Richard. 1998 2nd Revised Edition. Film Propaganda: Soviet Russsia and Nazi Germany. London: I. B. Tauris


Fascism: Modern Propaganda

October 05, 2006

Triumph of the Will: Riefenstahl Consolidating Nazi Power

The Stadium in Nuremberg

Leni Riefenstahl’s film of the Nuremberg Nazi Congress of 1934 has frequently been hailed as a significant artistic documentary film. Reifenstahl died very recently and up until that time she consistently denied any association with the Nazis defending the film as a ‘work of art’. However the fact that she made another film about the Nazi Nuremburg congress in 1933 tends to undermine that argument. Dealing with the film and with Reifenstahl is awkward. As the article below by Marcus points out Reappraising Triumph of the Will it is possibly the most discussed film and director in the history of cinema to date only possibly exceeded by Welles & Hitchcock. However as a quick trawl through the internet will show you there is a lot of not very good discussion and much of it has little or no historical contextual background. Below I focus particularly on the representation of the Army in the film and the underlying issues surrounding this as it appears to have been little covered elsewhere.

Riefenstahl with Hitler

The film itself came out at a highly significant time for the Nazis as it celebrated Hitlers process of consolidation of power which took place during the period from the end of January 1933 through the infamous ‘Night of the Long Knives on June 30th 1934 followed by Hitler becoming Fuhrer after the death of Hindenberg. The film had a lot of work to do to spread the message of consolidation. Below the film is examined with a lot of attention being paid to to the composition of the target audience it was meant to reach. Whatever else the brutality against the Left, Jews and even liberals within the administrative posts in Germany meant that few could be unaware of the course of events. Riefenstahl’s denial rings very hollow.

This extract from the film is at the George Washington University and shows the reception that Hitler got when he landed at Nuremberg. It is the moment which Reifenstahl has been building up to. Reappraising Triumph of the Will
This is a particularly useful recent article. It contains a critical report on an interview conducted by Marcus himself with Reifenstahl. Marcus notes many of the diecrepancies and contradictions with previous interviews that she had given.

This a very useful article because it places Triumph of the Will squarely in the context of the other films which Reifenstahl made for Hitler. She had filmed the Nuremberg rally in 1933 gaining very valuable experience of the place and space of the rallies themselves. She also made a film of the rally the following year. This film was to strongly feature the Werhmacht as the Werhmacht had complained that there was very little about their manoeuvres in Triumph of the Will.

Animated Gif of Nuremburg Images

Marcus spends a brief time on the issue of the army and what he says is perceptive and useful. The role of the army is something which most commentators either fail to consider or skim over. Coming at this film within the context of seeing the film as an important part of the whole of the period of the Nazi consolidation of power rather than a decontextualised psuedo documentary allows us as critics to get a much better handle on the film. Below a representation from Visconti signifying the free reign of terror which the SA had between March 1933 for over a year. However much of what they were doing was alienting the middle and upper class base of support for the Nazis.

The SA practicing on Effigies in Visconti

The role of the army in Hitler’s plans after taking power were crucial. In the first instance the army needed to stand by in a ‘neutral’ fashion whilst Hitler carried out his institutional purges during 1933 & 1934. It was the role of the Army in the future of Nazi Germany which was one of the fundamental points of difference between Roehm head of the SA and Hitler along with his unquestioning supporters such as Himmler and Goebbels the SS.

Ernst Roehm Leader of the SA

An excellent cinematic representation of this difference is shown within Visconti’s much under-rated film The Damned. Roehm wanted the SA to replace the army and be the spearhead for a more fundamental revolution at home and to lead the struggle for Lebensraum the Nazis imperialist plans for eastwards expansion. The Werhmacht were fundamentally opposed to the SA. whilst consolidating his position Hitler had no choice but to buy off the army – he obviously didn’t need a civil war with a fully professional armed fighting force. furthermore the Prussian backbone of the army had much in common with the genral aims of resoring Germany’s place in the World which would ensure a massive expansion of the armed forces. The kind of debauchery which Roehm was engaged in at the time of the massacre was helpful to Hitler in calming disturbed elements of the SA. visconti’s representation of this is largely based upon the reports of William Shirer an American journalist in Germany at the time.

The Debauchery of the SA

The Wehrmacht colluded in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’. It was ensured that they were confined to barracks whilst those identified as the greatest threats amongst the SA were purged. Furthermore it is reported that the Wehrmacht aslo provided logistical support for the SS to carry out the massacre. Shortly afterwards the officers of the army swore their personal allegiance to Hitler as Fuhrer. The seriousness of swearing an oath of allegiance within the Prussian officer code cannot be overestimated. Over the coming years this would prove to be a fundamental pillar of strength for Hitler. Below is an image of von Blomberg who appears on the podium with Hitler watching the manoeuvres. This would be seen by many of the film’s eventual audiences as highly significant.

Von Blomberg a key element in Hitlers rise to absolute power

Whilst the army might have wished to have been better represented the key target audience of the film needed to be the SA and all its supporters who had so recently had their leadership brutally removed. The mass popularity of Hitler and the unifying of Germany as a Nation with even the Saarland – at that time still under occupation – being included. There currently appears to be no evidence concerning the amount and type of footage of the army however it would be extraordinarily if Hitler wasn’t very aware of and had some level of input at the policy level of exactly what was in the film whatever Reifenstahl says. In another section I have placed a brief article on the re-armament policies of the Nazis and the development of these over the course of the early years of the regime. This historical detail will hopefully help to shed light on aspects of Triumph of the Will. I will also be placing a review of the process of the Nazi consolidation of power which I take to be from the end of January 1933 to the release of Triumph of the Will. This film needs to be seen as a spectacular represesentation of a spectacular event with a range of target audiences in mind. As a piece of performative filmmaking which come close to Wagner’s ideal of the gesamtkunstwerk then it is hard to beat. This link will take you to some realplayer downloads. I find it takes them a time to start up. The prelude to the Meistersinger was Reifenstahl’s ‘choice’. The fact that Wagner was Hitler’s favourite naturally had nothing to do with it. But then its a pain having to out up with that anti-Semite as well :-). Wagner was entirely appropriate for Riefenstahl’s score to the film, but then that was art – nothing to do with anti-Semitism at all!

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The Berlin Film Museum
Filmmuseum Berlin – Deutsche Kinemathek

Goethe Institute London Film Pages
Goethe-Institut London – The Arts – Film

Expressionist film

German Expressionism

Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung

Eureka Metropolis

Eureka Nosferatu

Fassbinder Vol 1

Run Lola Run

Das Experiment

Lives of Others

Senses of Cinema

Bacon Visconti

Bondanella Italian Cinema

Italian Neorealism Rebuilding the Cinematic City

Visconti The Leopard

Rocco and His Brothers

Visconti's Ossessione

Neorealist Collection

Framework a Peer assessed Film and Media Journal
Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media

Kinoeye. No relation to this blog. Cinema journal mainly focused upon Central & Eastern Europe
Kinoeye | Polish cinema | Vol 4.05, 29 November 2004

Cineuropa: A joint initiative
Cineuropa – About us – Our Mission

Talk About Films: the Independent and Foreign Films Discussion Group Go to 'Invalid Account'

Invalid Account
Ourmedia RSS feed

The World in 2007: The Economist Go to 'The Economist'

The Economist
Audio content from The Economist magazine, including interviews with journalists and experts on world politics, business, finance, economics, science, technology, culture and the arts.

BBC News UK Edition Go to 'BBC News - UK'

Eureka Shoah

Lanzmann's shoah

Haunted Images: Film & Holocaust

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