Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Hitler, ein Film aus Deutschland, Teil I: Der Graal

Hitler, elokuva Saksasta I: Graal / Hitler, a Film from Germany I: The Grail. Von der Weltesche bis zur Goethe-Eiche von Buchenwald / From the World Ash to the Goethe Oak in Buchenwald. DE / GB / FR 1977. PC: TMS Film Gmbh / WDR / INA / BBC. P: Bernd Eichinger. D+SC: Hans-Jürgen Syberberg. DP: Dietrich Lohmann. Puppets: Barbara Buchwald, Hans M. Stummer. PD: Hans Gailling. FX: Theo Nischwitz. Costumes: Barbara Gailling, Brigitte Kühlenthal. M: Wagner, Mahler, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn. ED: Jutta Brandstaedter. Featuring in multiple roles and as puppeteers: Heinz Schubert, Peter Kern, Hellmut Lange, Rainer von Artenfels, Martin Sperr, Peter Moland, Johannes Buzalski, Amelie Syberberg, Harry Baer, André Heller, Alfred Edel, Peter Lühr. 95 min. Brilliant 35mm print. E-subtitles in Finnish by Pirjo Brech, operated by Lena Talvio. Viewed at Orion, Helsinki, 29 March 2005. The house was sold out and sat in silent concentration through the first Syberberg screening in Finland. This is something completely different: a picture that brings to mind Sacha Guitry, Orson Welles, Monty Python, John Waters, Karl Valentin, and Richard Wagner, a combination of playfulness, seriousness, sorrow, and shock. Syberberg tries to portray something that is almost beyond comprehension, and apparently he is equipped with a wide variety of approaches to the subject which does not overwhelm him.
SYBERBERG: "In the beginning... the image of Ludwig's paradise from the Residence in Munich. A narrator tells of the 30 heirs who have a legal claim on Hitler, and explains that all the figures of the film are fictional, freely invented, all similarities to persons living or dead coincidental. We are therefore free to construct our own world in film. A little girl dressed in black, a figure recurring in the four parts of the film, is seen playing with dolls, puppets of Ludwig and Hitler hanging from the gallows. She rises and wanders off into the distance with a toy dog that has the face of Hitler. Against a Caligari projection she lays the toy Hitler in a cradle. The devil appears, bends over the cradle and turns into a black eagle.
A circus director announces the greatest show on earth, the rehearsal of the end of the world. In a monologue in the Black Maria (Edison's first film studio and symbol of the world of our inner projection), the puppet of Ludwig II asks, "where would we be without this guilt?", from Jesus to Hitler, the Jews. The master of ceremonies goes on to say that the performance must be played to the very end. "And since we no longer have a Hitler to exhibit... everyone must play himself, his own Hitler, at home, in front of a mirror, for money... ". One by one all the actors come on, as in a circus, in various roles, as the audience, as Hitler, Hitler as painter, as Nero, as Frankenstein, Chaplin. The narrator describes how his real theme is the Hitler in us all, those who elected him, sacrificed everything under him. Everyone can play a part; the world as circus and fairground; a world theatre that Hitler succeeded in shaping to his own design. The monologue from Fritz Lang's M is declaimed, in which the murderer protests his inability to act differently.
The scene changes to an antechamber of hell. From coffins the characters of the Nazi era awake, puppets manipulated by the various actors of the film, Goebbels, Göring, Himmler, Speer, who addresses the audience with interpretations of their time. A devil explains that Hitler, an evil too great for hell, is condemned to seek refuge on earth - but in what form? The young girl reappears, listens to the puppets, and takes up the Ludwig from his coffin, carrying him to hell.
The narrator tells of the hell about us, of the Nazi judges and lawyers, of Hitler's democratic election to power, and, above all, of the cultural hell we live in. On documentary recordings we hear the voices of people dedicating books to the flames in book burnings of the Third Reich; scenes alluding to the younger and older generations of German filmmakers are shown, the plastic face of a sex doll. A blackboard in the hell about us demonstrates the corruption of language, in east and west, the heirs of Hitler in our modern cultural life. And the narrator asks where it all began, where it will all end, the burning of books, the destruction of films, McCarthyism, Hollywood, the fellow-travellers; and then describes the battle for Hitler, in the form of books, films, newspapers, the endless exploitation of Hitler for profit. On a table lies the charred body of Goebbels.
At the end the little girl sits caressing the puppet of Ludwig" (BFI Catalogue for the Edinburgh Film Festival 1992)

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