Nazi Cinema as Enchantment: The Politics of Entertainment in the Third Reich (Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture)
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Hitler's regime not only terrorized its citizens; it also seduced them, offering stability, a traditional value system, a sense of belonging, and hope of a better standard of living. Nazi cinema was part of this seduction, expressing positive social fantasies and promoting the enchantment of reality, so that one would want to share in the dream at any price. This interdisciplinary study, based on exhaustive research in German archives, examines how thirteen films from five genres - the historical musical, the foreign adventure film, the home-front film, the melodrama, and the problem film - enchanted audiences and enacted shared stories that can tell us much about how family, community, history, the nation, and the war were imagined in Nazi Germany. Mary-Elizabeth O'Brien is Professor of German at Skidmore College.
drawing room, her gleaming white music room, or the garden of her family’s estate. Playing the piano is her entire life, an activity that “signals harmony, cultural refinement and the restriction of women to 45 the domestic sphere.” Octavia’s artificial environment, and by analogy the homeland, is associated with extreme intellectualism and pending death. The Froben estate is filled with reminders of transitoriness and mortality. The grandfather clock, inscribed with the adage “One of these hours
expects from a costume 51 drama.” Reviewers for the daily trade papers Film-Kurier and Licht-BildBühne either accepted the film wholeheartedly as a convincing historical 52 drama or merely criticized the portrayal of weak leaders as unrealistic. Apparently none of the writers seemed to doubt the “higher historical truth” behind the film: that France’s most celebrated mime incited the masses to revolution with a rousing nightclub act. Whether audiences in 1938 Germany considered Tanz auf dem
that ordered everything. As man applied instrumental reason to his environment and came to believe he could master everything by calculation, he experienced a progressive loss of wonder. Weber concludes: “As intellectualism suppresses belief in magic, the world’s processes become disenchanted, lose their magical significance, and henceforth simply ‘are’ and ‘happen’ but no longer signify anything. As a consequence, there is a growing demand that the world and the total pattern of life be subject
(n.p., n.d.), Kautschuk, Document File 8701, Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin. Kautschuk was praised for its “Bilder von urzeitlicher Wildheit,” Günther Schwark, “Kautschuk: Ufa-Palast am Zoo,” FilmKurier 263 (November 9, 1938). 31 “Wenn die Welt einen Rohstoff braucht, dann findet sie auch die Mittel, sich ihn zu verschaffen.” Kautschuk film dialogue. 32 “In endlosen Reihen, Baum bei Baum.” Kautschuk film dialogue. Kautschuk was seen as an important historical film because it illustrated “wie
Dennis, Beethoven in German Politics 1870–1989 (New Haven: Yale UP, 1996), 142–74. 154 ♦ THE HOME-FRONT FILM 37 Goebbels, “Das Kulturleben im Kriege,” 223. Goebbels’s reference to “plutocrats” was typical anti-British propaganda portraying the English as allied with the Jews in a conspiracy to dominate the world, see Baird, The Mythical World of Nazi Propaganda, 120–21. 38 Jeffrey Herf explores the selective use of modern technology coupled with völkisch ideology in Reactionary Modernism: