Saturday 15 February 2014

Our Humanity Challenged: Week Three Fascism

review of documentary of Jewish elder
review of Spanish holocaust

courtesy of Guy Weissberg  (I particularly like the second link.)

Europa Europa is based on the true story of a young German Jew who survived the Holocaust by falling in with the Nazis. Solomon Perel is the son of a Jewish shoe salesman coming of age in Germany during the rise of Adolf Hitler. In 1938, a group of Nazis attack Solomon's family home; his sister is killed, and 13-year-old Solomon flees to Poland. Solomon winds up in an orphanage operated by Stalinist forces; when German forces storm Poland, Solomon's fluent German allows him to join the Nazis as a translator, posing as Josef Peters, an ethnic German. In time, "Peters" is made a member of the elite Hitler Youth, but since Solomon is circumcised, he can be easily revealed as a Jew, and he lives in constant fear that his secret will be discovered. Solomon's close calls include an attempted seduction by Robert Kellerman, a homosexual officer, and his relationship with Leni, a beautiful but violently anti-Semitic woman, who wants to bear his child for the glory of the master race. 
a dream sequence in Europa Europa

Louis Malle’s, Lacombe Lucien, is about the German occupation of France. Based on his own experiences in France during the occupation, Malle's film does not paint a flattering picture of the French Resistance and eventually he immigrated to America because of the critical reaction to this film. Essentially the tale of a young boy who wants to join the Resistance but is shunned by them because of his youth, he joins the Gestapo. What is most interesting is that that he was not motivated by ideology, but the perks of power, including the ability to intimidate others, and the pay. He even falls in love with a young Jewish girl. As a result of his own confusions and his acts of betrayal, he is pursued by the Resistance and the Gestapo. 
Lacombe Lucien

The Downfall
In The Downfall, the last ten days of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime are seen through the eyes of a young woman in his employ in this historical drama from Germany. Traudl Junge was twenty-two years old when, in the fall of 1942, she was hired to be personal secretary to Adolf Hitler (played by a riveting Bruno Ganz). In April of 1945, Junge was still working for Hitler as forces were bearing down on Germany and the leader retreated to a secret bunker in Berlin for what would prove to be the last ten days of his life, as well as that of the Third Reich. As Hitler's mistress Eva Braun attempts to throw a cheerful birthday party for her man, Hitler's closest associates, including Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Albert Speer urge him to flee the city with only Goebbels maintaining any illusions that the Third Reich has any hope of survival. Hitler refuses to leave Berlin, and he spends his final days ranting and raving to Junge, blaming all around him as he tries to understand where his leadership went wrong. Meanwhile, Goebbels and his wife round up their six children and bring them to the bunker as Berlin begins to topple, determined to take their lives rather than face the Allies after Germany's certain defeat. The Downfall was based in part on the memoirs of the real-life Traudl Junge, whose experiences also formed the basis of the 2002 documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary.

Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro returns to the phantasmagorical cinema with Pan's Labyrinth, a haunting fantasy-drama set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and detailing the strange journeys of an imaginative young girl who may be the mythical princess of an underground kingdom. Her mother, Carmen recently remarried to sadistic army captain Vidal and soon to bear the cruel military man's child, shy young Ofelia is forced to entertain herself as her recently-formed family settles into their new home nestled deep in the Spanish countryside. As Ofelia's bed-ridden mother lies immobilized in anticipation of her forthcoming child and her high-ranking stepfather remains determined to fulfill the orders of General Francisco Franco to crush a nearby guerrilla uprising, the young girl soon ventures into an elaborate stone labyrinth presided over by the mythical faun Pan. Convinced by Pan that she is the lost princess of legend and that in order to return to her underground home she must complete a trio of life-threatening tasks, Ofelia sets out to reclaim her kingdom and return to her father as Vidal's housekeeper Mercedes and doctor plot secretly on the surface to keep the revolution alive.


Set at the end of the war in Germany Lore is powerful account of young girl who inadvertently begins the process of de-Nazification. See my review in Critics at Large

New York Times review of Wagner and Me

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