descent worries and anxiety: “easy delight”

I came across a biography of Maria Landrock who was a celebrity star during the Third Reich. It does force one to look at the role of popular entertainment within its context as part of the entertainment industry pushed to its extremes under wartime conditions…

Firstly, the validity of Raul Hilberg’s essential thesis is kind of a preface to the type of low mass culture of 1933-45. That is,  that the ‘Final Solution’ was a bureaucratic process. It was the bureaucracy of the Nazi state that drove forward, with ever more daring and mortal radicalism, the policies inflicted on Europe’s Jews and others.  The Holocaust was therefore, according to Hilberg, a systematically implemented program that proceeded ‘step-by-step … to the annihilation …” As Walter Laquer also asserted, there was a willing participation in anticipation of the advantages.This kind of “bystander effect” produced its own self-reinforcing culture, insulating itself from wider issues.

---She also had starred with Willy Fritsch in Die keusche Geliebte/The chaste lover (1940, Viktor Tourjansky). She became a successful film actress and appeared opposite Emil Jannings in the comedy Altes Herz wird wieder jung/Old heart becomes young again (1943, Erich Engel), and with Viktor de Kowa in Ein glücklicher Mensch/A Happy Man (1943, Paul Verhoeven). On 18 July 1944, she performed at a SS troop support in the Auschwitz concentration camp.---Read More: image:

Whether the destructive process is genetically influenced as Daniel Goldhagen has claimed, is questionable, but it does not invalidate individual responsibility; but should be looked at in the context of fascism/capitalism and the necessity for status , predation and invidious comparison. The Thorstein Veblen model on amphetamines or stronger…

Only a few weeks after the National Socialists came to power in January 1933, Joseph Goebbels stressed the important function of popular entertainment films. In his Hotel Kaiserhof speech, the Reich Minister of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda explained that while pursuing the objective of reforming German film “from the roots up” and giving it “the contours of the Volk,” it was equally important not to neglect “the creation of the most minor amusements, our daily ration against boredom.” …Goebbels called openly for the production of popular films and wrote in a February 8, 1942, diary entry: “The popular film today is politically significant, and even, potentially, a decisive factor in the war.” Read More:,,,,,,,,1E8087A1FB543999E04053D50B375C91,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.htmla

---This apparently unpolitical story about a family reunited was nevertheless quite "current," as the magazine "Film-Kurier" had already noted in flattering review in April 1943. From the very start the film is fraught with features of the National-Socialists' racist doctrine and policies. As Brigitte confesses, the decision to search for her lost grandfather was motivated by "descent worries," a reference to the so-called "Aryan Certificate" that from March 1933 on had been a requirement for all workers, civil servants, lawyers and judges, doctors, and university students. In keeping with the Nazis' racist policies, the families of such persons had to be "pure Aryan" as far back as the grandparents---Read More:,,,,,,,,1E8087A1FB543999E04053D50B375C91,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.html

What is apparent is that these light comedies are loaded with “aesthetic pollution”.Compare these kinds of soft-core images of the instrumentalization of race ultimately leading to the known results, with say photographs of Abu Ghraib which were examined by Susan Sontag, in particular her observation that violence has become entertainment in American culture, providing an “easy delight.” Which is more “violent” The unchanging effect of the photographs themselves, or the violence they represent?

Sontag:What is interesting about the relation between politics and art under National Socialism is not that art was subordinated to political needs... but that politics appropriated the rhetoric of art—art in its late romantic phase.< ... Nazi art is both prurient and idealizing. A utopian aesthetics (physical perfection; identity as a biological given) implies an ideal eroticism: sexuality converted into the magnetism of leaders and the joy of followers. The fascist ideal is to transform sexual energy into a 'spiritual' force, for the benefit of the community. The erotic (that is, women) is always present as a temptation, with the most admirable response being a heroic repression of the sexual impulse... Fascist aesthetics is based on the containment of vital forces; movements are confined, held tight, held in. Read More: image:

Evidently, shifting the sphere of circulation from the closed community of soldiers and their friends to a context of mass dissemination provoked no “easy delight” in the crudely composed Abu Ghraib images. The single photograph that has become the most iconic and emblematic image of the Abu Ghraib atrocities is the most aestheticized of those released: the Hooded Man. The aesthetic appeal of the graceful figure in this image gives it the power to evoke an abiding horror. Obviously, Maria Landrock movies make a much more exploitative use of aesthetics. But the Ghraib photos, a sort of unwanted beauty or outlaw beauty with its painful contradiction makes the suffering it represents haunting memory singeing.

Sontag:Why has Nazi Germany, which was a sexually repressive society, become erotic? How could a regime which persecuted homosexuals become a gay turn-on? A clue lies in the predilections of the fascist leaders themselves for sexual metaphors. Like Nietzsche and Wagner, Hitler regarded leadership as sexual mastery of the 'feminine' masses, as rape. (The expression of the crowds in Triumph of the Will is one of ecstasy; the leader makes the crowd come.) Left-wing movements have tended to be unisex, and asexual in their imagery. Right-wing movements, however puritanical and repressive the realities they usher in, have an erotic surface. Certainly Nazism is 'sexier' than communism (which is not to the Nazis' credit, but rather shows something of the nature and limits of the sexual imagination).Read More: image:

In Under The Volcano, Lowry calls the German actress Maria Landrock “engimatic” which may refer to her playing a Mexican woman Pepita in Veit Harlan’s Pedro soll hangen and the fact that her features appear “Spanish”. Surely, Lowry could not have seen either film in Mexico before beginning Under The Volcano? If he is referring to the Pedro soll hangen film then it was not released until 1941 and begs the question where he saw the film. He could have either seen the mention of the film in a US trade magazine while in Canada in 1941 or saw the film on his 1945 visit to Mexico. Read More:

---Veit Harlan was a pro-Nazi propagandist who made the sickening Jud Süß in 1940. After the war, Lowry may have become aware of Harlan's Nazi sympathies.---Read More:

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---In order to preserve this "purity" it appears only logical that Hoffmann's granddaughter should take Hoffmann's nephew for a husband. The two ends of the circle of the national "We" are thus to be joined in the "new era" of Nazi Germany. This quintessence is so important for the film that Hoffmann emphasizes it once more in a final monologue: "A new era is coming over our country. Man not only looks ahead with new courage, but — heedfully — back to his ancestors, as well." ---image:,1580511,ApplicationStar.html

Susan Sontag on Leni Riefenstahl:“Fascist aesthetics include but go far beyond the rather special celebration of the primitive to be found in The Nuba. They also flow from (and justify) a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, and extravagant effort; they exalt two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude. The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication of things and grouping of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader figure or force. The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transactions between mighty forces and their puppets. Its choreography alternates between ceaseless motion and a congealed, static, “virile” posing. Fascist art glorifies surrender; it exalts mindlessness: it glamorizes death.” Read More: aa

Ethan Ham:The image of Gilligan achieves its power from the fact that it does not show the human form laid bare and reduced to raw matter but creates instead an original image of inhumanity that admits no immediately self-evident reading. Its fascination resides, in large part, in its mystery and inscrutability—in all that is concealed by all that it reveals. It is an image of carnival weirdness: this upright body shrouded from head to foot; those wires; that pose; and the peaked hood that carries so many vague and ghoulish associations. The pose is obviously contrived and theatrical, a deliberate invention that appears to belong to some dark ritual, a primal scene of martyrdom. The picture transfixes us because it looks like the truth, but, looking at it, we can only imagine what that truth is: torture, execution, a scene staged for the camera? So we seize on the figure of Gilligan as a symbol that stands for all that we know was wrong at Abu Ghraib and all that we cannot—or do not want to—understand about how it came to this.Read More:



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