Entertaining the Third Reich: Illusions of Wholeness in Nazi Cinema (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
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Drawing on theoretical work, particularly that of Lacan and Zizek, Schulte-Sasse shows how films such as Jew Süsss and The Great King construct fantasies of social harmony, often through distorted versions of familiar stories from eighteenth-century German literature, history, and philosophy. Schulte-Sasse observes, for example, that Nazi films, with their valorization of bourgeois culture and use of familiar narrative models, display a curious affinity with the world of Enlightenment culture that the politics of National Socialism would seem to contradict.
Schulte-Sasse argues that film served National Socialism less because of its ideological homogeneity than because of the appeal and familiarity of its underlying literary paradigms and because the medium itself guarantees a pleasurable illusion of wholeness. Entertaining the Third Reich will be of interest to a wide range of scholars, including those engaged in the study of cinema, popular culture, Nazism and Nazi art, the workings of fascist culture, and the history of modern ideology.
repeatedly highlights its setting in 1839 — a century prior to its release — through verbal references and close-ups of calendars. This temporal dimension, combined with the film’s allegorical figures (Biedermeier, Dr. Kaftan, and German Michel), has the effect of generalizing from the screen events into a larger “German” context. Again hindsight becomes a form of pleasure in a film looking back into an era at once idealized and benevolently ironized. Indeed, this “look back” is to be understood
Ironically, in other words, her catching up with her star self has the effect of voiding her star status as she becomes “his” alone. Stephen Lowry has analyzed Leander’s/Holberg’s redemption in this scene as a simultaneous visual deeroticization, especially vis-à-vis earlier, vampish performances. She appears in celestial white, immobilized and veritably pinned to the stage set.28 Indeed, by the time she rushes to her wounded lover’s side at the film’s end, the film has utterly abandoned its
somewhere, and not only from the diabolical imagination of cynics. Second, I have explored the particular relation between an eighteenth century imagined in Nazi films and the present by and for whom it was imagined. Münchhausen is unusually accommodating by self-consciously foregrounding this relationship; it narrativizes only the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, while the intervening time is only narrated within the diegesis (Münchhausen sums it up). We saw how on the ideological level,
and dependent upon one another. They are each other’s Other and cannot exist independently; the “Jew” with his excesses is but the alter ego of those who construct him. The appeal of narrative lies in an imaginary mastery over the “outside” that lives off the certainty that it can never be eradicated, as it is merely the dialectical opposite of the “inside.” This illusion of mastery has (and wants) to be renewed — which further suggests that the Other supposedly impeding community cannot be
Frederick films, and, more recently, numerous film historians have argued that they encouraged the reactionary trends that led to National Socialism.11 Although Frederick undoubtedly was exploited for political purposes, I think we must again conceive the enduring fascination with his legend as an expression primarily of desire — which Kracauer corroborates with his diagnosis of “powerful collective desires” as the reason why the “true” Frederick excavated by critical historians “never succeeded