• Titanic (1943)

     

    This version of Titanic is a propaganda movie created under the swastika during the Third Reich era in Nazi Germany. The movie is though less propaganda orientated than "Jud Süss" or "Der ewige Jude" and even though it's banned, it's not a fascist and antisemist movie in the end. The movie rather criticizes British and American values and portrays the dark sides of egoism, bribery, capitalism and liberalism. The message of the movie is that the fate of the Titanic could have been avoided if the White Star Line would not forced the crew to ride as fast as possible to the port of New York City to get some prestige and to become rich and famous with the fastest ship in the world. The movie also shows in the end that White Star Line president Ismay doesn't get punished and that the death of one thousand five hundred people isn't avenged because of the flaws and the injustice of American laws. On the side, the courageous Germans on the sinking ship try to save the passengers and are not able to be corrupted and controlled by shareholders, thieves and rich women.

    Apart of some wrong historical facts and the negative description of British and American values, the movie is though rather an entertainment movie. The costumes are luxurious, the location is well chosen, the acting is overall solid even though main actor Hans Nielsen is quite unpleasant and cold. What really stands out are the special effects and the highly emotional acting during the sinking of the ship. It's no propaganda at all when I say that James Cameron stole a couple of ideas from this movie and even from some other Titanic movies I have seen to put them together into a potpourri of borrowed ideas that became famous thanks to a big budget and two great main actors. For its time, the German version of Titanic is though quite charming and entertaining and should be checked out by anybody that has seen the Hollywood blockbuster. There are still some lengths in the beginning of the movie but towards the end the movie gets better and better.

    This is actually a surprising fact. The first director of the movie criticized the German army during the work on this movie, got imprisoned the next day and was found dead in his cell a few days after. Officially, he might have committed suicide but it's possible that the radical German government wanted to definitely eliminate the traitor. The movie was finished with a second director but the team knew about the strange death of the first director and didn't want to finish the shooting. German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels then menaced the whole team that they might follow the faithful path of the first director if they would not collaborate. Under a big tension, the movie was finished but never officially published during the era of the Third Reich as Goebbels was afraid that the scenes of mass hysteria and death in the movie could frighten the population as they were already beginning to be attacked by Allied bombing raids at that time.

    Today, official copies of this movie exist and even though the movie was banned I once saw it on German television a few years ago by coincidence. The movie has a certain charm, great visual and technical effects and is quite entertaining and the only negative fact left is some anti-capitalist propaganda. Overall, this still one of the more moderate movies directed and controlled by the propaganda ministry of the Third Reich and you can watch this movie without being brainwashed if you are informed about the true events and the background of the shooting.

     

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  • Jud Süss (1940)

     

    "Jud Süss" is without a doubt one of the most racist and radical propaganda movies and has been banned in several countries. Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels described the movie once as the absolute antisemitism movie. The movie is indeed filled with stereotypes and wrong historic connections and interpretations. As minus points are not possible, I would give the lowest rating to the intellectual part, the story and the message of this ugly piece of art.

    If we have a look on the rest, this movie is quite well acted and succeeds in his dishonourable goals as he really creates the image of a egoistic, capitalist and pitiless finance minister that brings evil over an entire population. Apart of this main character, we have many appealing secondary characters. There is the naive and beautiful young girl that sacrifices her life for her husband and the march of rebellion. Her husband is a tough and courageous man with a lot of charisma. The father of the girl is an honest, direct and sage man that seeks for justice rather than for vengeance. The decorations and costumes of the movie are detailed and luxurious. The creators of this movie put a lot of works and details into this entertaining and emotional movie. For the costumes, the filming techniques and the acting, I would normally give at least seven or even eight points.

    But the truth is that the propaganda of antisemitism can't be weighted up by the rest as this movie constantly focuses on this and its only purpose is to show how dangerous and evil Jewish people are. The ending of the movie even justifies the acts of the Nazi government to ban Jewish people and don't let them play any role in society.

    Even though the film is banned in several countries, historians still get access to this movie with certain permissions and I was able to watch this movie in order to write a dissertation about propaganda movies at the university. From a historical point of view, this movie played a very important role and is surely a stunning document of its time, society and ideology under the swastika. This movie can easily portray the lies and propaganda if you know and understand the horrible background of its creation. This movie should be considered as a warning how easily people can get manipulated by the medias and watching this flick really sharpened my senses for this topic. One should nowadays avoid this disgusting content without a doubt. On the other side, one shall not forget that this kind of films have been made and are still made nowadays in countries with radical leaders and have a shocking impact.If I sum all of this up mathematically, I might give four points to this movie even though I hate its message and wish this would have never been created to support the genocide of millions of innocent people under a reign of absolute terror and holocaust.

     

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  • Oktyabr / October (1928)

     

    October is another technically perfect masterpiece of Sergei Eistenstein that is though a little bit more radical and propaganda orientated than his previous works as the censorship and state control in Soviet Union heavily increased during that period. Note that Eisenstein would later be censored for other movies and that there would be way more radical propaganda movies than this one which can still be categorized as part of the early Soviet Union's revolutionary cinema. If you collect some background information and know about the historical context, you can watch this movie without problems as you won't get brainwashed by it in the end. Nevertheless, this is not an entertainment movie as there are lot of scenes and many different characters and events that need your full attention. The topic of revolution and violent rebellion hasn't changed though and is once again a main topic of one of Eisenstein's movies.

    From the artistic point of view, Eisenstein has improved his philosophy of cinema and introduces the intellectual montage to one of his full length features. You have a sequence of many short and fast cuts where you can seen images of religious symbols and after this or in alternation with this the statue of a tsar. This means that Eisenstein compares the numerous gods of different cultures in a profoundly atheist Soviet Union to the megalomania of the repressive tsars in a period of tyranny. The movie does the same thing when it compares the wasteful shine of tsarist dishes to a dumb and indoctrinated army in the next moment. Another good example is the fact that a tsarist officer is compared to Napoleon.

    Visually, there are many impressive images and scenes in this movie even if is not a intense as Battleship Potemkin was. The scene where a helpless horse falls down a bridge is pretty emotional for example.

    The movie is longer than Battleship Potemkin but very detailed and includes many historical details, crowds scenes and diversified characters. That's why the movie doesn't get too boring and is still enjoyable to watch nowadays.

    In the end, this movie is not as essential as Battleship Potemkin was but if you liked the style of Eisenstein's first international success, you can't go wrong with this one and learn a lot about Russian history, culture and ideology.

     

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  • Bronenosets Potyomkin / Battleship Potemkin (1915)

     

    The works of Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein in the early days of Soviet Union's cinema easily beats anything Hollywood published at the same time. The score is bombastic, the images are intense and the avant-garde camera shootings and runs are innovating. Even a century after its creation, the scenes on the Odessa staircase are still highly impressive.

    For Eisenstein, cinema was an art with many facets and his attraction montage fusions the meanings of images, words and music into a powerful and baffling piece of art. This movie works a lot with contrasts. You can see the small and dark rooms of the sailors and the big and light rooms of the tsarist officers. You can see the beautiful dishes with religious inscriptions for the rich personal on board and the foul dead meat for the sailors. You can see the sadness of a despaired woman that loses her young child that is shot in the back while you can see the pitiless army that creates an incredible bloodbath. The movie focuses on the rebellion and solidarity of a crowd and not of a single hero and already represents early Soviet ideals but the acting of many single persons is simply incredible and very close to theatre if you take a look at the expression on the faces of the actors. This movie is filled with details and close to perfection from an artistic point of view.

    Of course, there is a lot of symbolism in the movie and a lot of propaganda but as censorship wasn't yet as extreme as it would be during the next three decades under the tyranny of a powerful madman called Stalin this movie still portrays the opinion of Eisenstein who comes from Latvia that had been annexed by the Russian tsar. It's more a revolutionary movie than a propaganda movie and is not so far from true historic facts as it is the case for movie such as "The Birth Of A Nation" or "Der Jude Süss". Still, this slight slices of propaganda are reason enough to cut off one point from the final rating.

    This is a truly artistic movie that any fan of cinema should at least once see in his lifetime. If you haven't seen it yet and doubt its quality, don't hesitate any longer. Even if the political message is definitely questionable, this short flick is definitely bombastic, epic and always entertaining.

     

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  • The Birth Of A Nation (1915)

    Griffith's "The Birth Of A Nation" is very particular movie. From a purely technical point of view, this movie is quite epic, experimental and mind-blowing for the time when it has been created. True fans and experts of cinema can't pass around this movie that also features some of the most appealing actors of the early years of American cinema such as the charming and gifted Lillian Gish.

    The movie shows us many bits of the history of the United States of America. The American Civil War is portrayed in detail and especially the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is filmed in an unforgettable manner. Note that Francis Ford Coppola seems to be clearly inspired by this dramatic scene that he almost exactly reproduced in the third part of his legendary Godfather legacy.

    On the other side, the movie is truly slow paced and takes a lot of time to introduce many different characters. Even for people interested in early cinema and American history, it's difficult to sit through a movie with a length over three hours. This movie has many low points and its narration is not very dynamic.

    What really leads this movie down is its wrong interpretation of history and its open racist resentments. Right from the beginning on, there is a quotation that tells us that the arrival of African slaves brought the first seed of separation among Americans. Later, the movie talks about obscure topics such as Aryan birthrights and similar stuff. This movie shows us many scenes where black-faced white actors rape a white woman, fear white children or menace white farmers. The role of the Ku Klux Klan is idealized in the movie and The Birth Of A Nation was in fact used as a recruitment tool of this racist organization and it even led to the creation of the second Ku Klux Klan in Georgia back in 1915. The fact that this was the first movie to be shown inside the White House tells us a lot about the society and politics of the United States of America back in the days but there were also negative responses as some movie theatres refused to play this motion picture for example. This movie is an interesting document of its time but definitely not easy to digest and to approve nowadays and it's good that things have changed. There is more racist and pro white propaganda in this American movie than I have seen in many propaganda flicks coming from USSR and the Third Reich.

    In the end, this movie is an important work for the early history of cinema. It's impressive from a technical point of view and at least interesting for historians. On the other side, the movie has many lengths and is certainly too long. The worst and most intolerable thing about this movie is definitely the openly racist, wrong and closed minded analyze of history. There is a lot of anti-black brainwash propaganda so you should be careful when you watch it and not believe everything the movie tells you about American history.

     

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