Hitler and movies … When dictatorial politics make their films | Mohammed Al-Hamamsi

Adolf Hitler was fascinated by watching movies and understanding the power of movies as political mass propaganda and as a way to advance his Nazi agenda. Through his presence in the Third Reich Movie Theater, he funded film projects, news releases, and documentaries, as well as engaging in complex relationships with his writers, stars, and directors.

This is what the book “Hitler and Cinema: The Unknown Identity of the Fuhrer” by film historian Bill Niven tries to reveal, which explores Hitler’s passion for film and its full impact on his industry, with a wide range of archival sources confirming that Hitler was a fanatic of movies and watched many movies and even criticized them for including films by Jewish directors and actors.

The book shows that the German leader’s taste was somewhat eclectic, as the films he chose to watch reveal a side of his dictatorship. He has also watched Weimar films, American comedies and musicals.

non-neutral consumer

A book that fully explores Hitler’s passion for film and its influence on its making, with a wide range of archival sources.

Bevin sees in his book translated by Haitham Lama and issued by Dar Al-Mada that Hitler’s interest in the arts was in many respects a subject of comprehensive documentation; We find, for example, studies on the books that Hitler read, on his interest in architecture and on his passion for Wagner’s opera compositions, as well as on his interference in major German art exhibitions between 1937 and 1944, and we also know his personal taste in the arts well. .

There was also research that specialized in the architecture of the decorations of the places where Hitler lived. However, there is not much information about Hitler’s interest in movies. For example, a typical idea of ​​this interest may be formed by a classical study developed by Frederick Spotts on Hitler’s position on the arts in general, where he teaches us that while Hitler enjoyed watching movies, he not in film as an art and that he left the use of film for the purposes of political propaganda to Joseph Goebbels, a point that came to the fore indirectly in numerous studies of film in the Third Reich.

The researchers devoted an important space to the crucial role played by Goebbels, the Minister of Film and Propaganda, and the Ministry of Political Propaganda in general. In this context, important texts have been published on the American film industry and its reactions to Nazism, all of which refer to Hitler’s interest in films, but the impression one gets from most books interested in filmmaking in the Third Reich is that there is not much. to learn by carefully examining Hitler intervened. On the contrary, this book shows that this reflection can actually teach us a lot.

The book claims that Hitler was more than a neutral consumer of the movies he watched night after night in his mountain home, the Mountain Court. More than once during the years of the Third Reich, he directly or indirectly encouraged the production of Nazi films that promoted his political visions and programs.

Realizing the ability of movies to convince viewers, he said in his book “My Struggle” that “in much less time, and immediately, in my opinion, the viewer understands a depiction of an idea that is tiring. and may require long reading efforts. ”

Bill Bevin sees in his book that Hitler's interest in the arts is in many respects a subject of extensive documentation.
Bill Bevin sees in his book that Hitler’s interest in the arts is in many respects a subject of extensive documentation.

More than Goebbels, Hitler considered it necessary to give film directors the opportunity to produce documentaries, as it was required to portray real-life events not only with the right amount of political propaganda, but also with the aesthetic and dramatic techniques that films in order to convey the political message with the greatest possible impact.

“Hitler intervened on several occasions to ban certain films, or to allow them to be shown as censorship, and to request changes to it,” Bevin said. Intermittent interventions were undoubtedly common when Goebbels consulted Hitler on controversial films, but their appearance meant that the final decision in the field of films, from historical epics to ordinary stories and not just German stories. In public, he wanted at least most of the time that his image be associated with films with serious political messages. Film screenings in his private sessions satisfy his lazy side, and his presence in films in front of people nurtures the image of the ideologue. ”

He explains that there is evidence that Hitler watched films directed by Jews, or with Jewish actors, or both, at least in the pre-war era. At times, Hitler made sure that certain actors who were married to Jews or of Jewish background, actors whose performances he admired, were somewhat shielded from the influences of Nazi anti-Semitism, even though he asked Goebbels to tell more to work anti-Semitic films. While Hitler enjoyed watching American films in his private sessions, such as “Gone with the Wind” in 1939, probably after the ban on showing American films in German cinemas, he spoke with clear contempt for American culture in public gatherings. appear. For Hitler, movies were light entertainment on the one hand, and on the other a means of promoting Nazi ideology.

Bevin notes that watching films between 1933 and September 1939 occupied a significant part of Hitler’s time. He watched films in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, but more often in his private home, the Berghof, his residence in Bavaria.

Hitler believed that the most influential films are those that rely more on images than on sound

There is clear evidence that Hitler intended to ask Televenken to have a film projector in his car. He described his bodyguard and postman as a “film addict”. He has previously watched adventure films, thrilling crimes, dramas, historical epics, musicals, entertainment films, comedies, romantic films, American Westerns and cartoons, which means he would watch anything. And if some of his favorite movies seem like a logical and predictable choice, others might surprise us.

By watching private films, Hitler was on the one hand giving in to his lazy, relaxed disposition, but also developed his taste for world cinema. Of course, his ideological reactions sometimes determined his choices, but he often allowed himself to appreciate films as films, and it was Hitler who did not know the general German public.

“Hitler and Goebbels regularly watched contemporary German films, but also American films,” adds Bevin. For example, in March 1934, they watched the movie ‘The Procession’ directed by Frank Lloyd (USA 1933), a major historical epic that spans the period 1899-1933 and deals with events such as the Boer War and the sinking of the Titanic. It seems that Hitler and Goebbels enjoyed it when they returned and saw it in May 1934. In April 1934, they watched the 1933 movie ‘Gabriel over the White House’ directed by Gregory La Cava.

One would expect Hitler to like a movie about the dissolution of Congress and the establishment of a virtual dictatorship in the United States. A film specialist says the movie “Gabriel Over the White House” was the first major movie about fascism. But Goebbels says Hitler did not quite know how to judge him; He found it exaggerated in theory and modernity. Perhaps this is an indication that Hitler believed that the most influential films were those that depended more on images than on sound.

He points out that Hitler was known for rejecting esoteric and ambiguous ideas from the ranks of socialism, but that did not stop him from watching the film “The Dog of the Baskervilles” or the film directed by Hans Deby in 1939, “The White Horse “to admire. Rider ”, another film from the archives of the Berghof. It is clear that the supernatural and melancholic character of both films was the factor that attracted Hitler to them.

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