Directed by Rüdiger Suchsland, Hitler’s Hollywood takes a unique look at Nazi cinema and the hidden meanings behind the more than one thousand features produced during that time. While the manner in which Rüdiger approaches the film is admirable and different from a standard documentary that cuts back and forth between interviews, it does end up hurting the great content within the film.
Narrated by Udo Kier, a voice that sounds perfect for this type of subject, his voice carries the film along with clips from various features from the Hitler ruled cinema. Hitler’s Hollywood is almost like the German version of John Carpenter’s They Live. Although Carpenter’s project was a fictional tale, it did not hold back from describing America’s sneaky ways of keeping the rich and working class apart. Rüdiger Suchsland’s documentary similarly looks back at the old German features and highlights the various tactics used by Hitler and his team to brainwash people into believing in their ideas, as well as ignoring the brutality that was taking place at that time.
The documentary provides a great deal of insight into the dark and corrupt world of the 1930’s in Germany. Also, in a way, shows Hitler’s intelligence by understanding the power of cinema and how the medium will help his cause. It shows how once the Nazi’s ruled, there was not one auteur left because Joseph Goebbels controlled every area of ‘art.’ The stars of the time were also foreigners.
In the Nazis cinema, death was a celebration. In the words of Udo “Every death was a happy death in Nazi cinema.” It was a way of justifying their longing for war and proclaiming that if German nationals were to die by representing their nation, there is nothing nobler. They even went on to sending this message to the youths with the film Hitlerjunge Quex, where a poor boy Heini finds meaning in the army which leads to him dying for his nation. Quex’s story was a not so subtle way of speaking for Germany’s rulers.
Stunning effects and visuals were also used to mask the horror Hitler and his men had brought to the country. In their films, they painted a happy Germany, which was a fantasy for the people. They even used fancy cuts and fades, enhancing the fantasy elements to their films, and disillusioning the public with attractive visuals. A nice clip of fades and wipes from films is even shown to support the information we receive.
Hitler’s Hollywood undoubtedly goes against the norm by relying on off-screen narration and old footage, but that hurts the film a great deal. There is such a thing as too much information, and you feel overloaded watching this. By not using separate interviews with historians or other experts on the subject, it jumps to one film and event after another, giving us no time to digest the information. For people that are new to this subject, it can become a little difficult to follow the story. Old films also start to look the same, and Udo’s words can become confusing because of it.
For historians and film buffs, this documentary is a wonderful source of knowledge and even delves into Nazi cinema’s failures when trying to justify their unspeakable actions towards Jews. But all in all, a different approach by Rüdiger Suchsland would have meant a much more engaging and satisfying documentary. Something a topic like this deserves.
Dir: Rüdiger Suchsland
Scr: Rüdiger Suchsland
Editor: Ursula Pürrer
Prd: Martina Haubrich
Narrator: Udo Kier
Hitler’s Hollywood is now available on DVD.