We ask what the Nazi cinema of the Third Reich reveals about its period and its people? How do these films, including their myths, their stories, their open lies and hidden truths, affect the future of the history of German cinema?
The Nazi-cinema was a state-controlled industry, subject to rigid political and cultural censorship. At the same time, it aspired to be “Great Cinema”; it viewed itself as an ideological and aesthetic alternative to Hollywood. A German dream factory.
This state-funded studio-based cinema followed industrial modes of production.
It established its own celebrity star system and marketed itself with the latest, state of the art marketing techniques. The aim was to beat the US-cinema with its own tools. German cinema produced Nazi blockbuster of the likes of “Münchhausen”, as well as NS films d’auteur such as “Opfergang” (The Great Sacrifice).
Nazi-cinema thought big. Technically, it was executed to perfection. Cinema was meant to educate and entertain. It was industrially pre-fabricated to manipulate the people co-opt the masses, stir up sentiments of hatred and consent, self-sacrifice and moral cowardice.
Perhaps, the feelings evoked by these films were feelings of self-delusion, false feelings. It is only in this vein that the impact of Nazi cinema can be understood. It was popular and satisfied the desires of large sections of society. In its days, millions of people flocked to the cinemas.
About 1000 feature films were made in Germany in the years between 1933-45, only a few of them were openly Nazi propaganda films. But, by the same token, even fewer of them can be considered harmless entertainment.
We look at these films and the people behind them. How stereotypes of the “enemy” and values of love and hate managed to be planted, into the heads of the viewers, through the screens.
We tell stories of: followers and side kicks, fanatics and careerists, opportunists, rebels, insurgents and renegades, of cowards and brave men – of victims and perpetrators.
We tell the story of the stars of the NS-cinema: Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Theo Lingen, Gustav Knuth, Johannes Heesters, Zarah Leander, Ilse Werner, Marika Rökk, Grete Weiser, Heinrich George, Luis Trenker, Veit Harlan, Leni Riefenstahl, Thea von Harbou, Karl Ritter and many more. And we tell the stories of the others: Helmuth Käutner, Detlef Sierck (later: Douglas Sirk), G.W.Pabst; Werner Hochbaum, Erich Kästner.
How much Hollywood is there in Hitler’s dream factory?
A co-production by
Author & Director
Martina Haubrich, Sarah Schmidt
Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Filmförderung Hessen