The never was as history : portrayals of the 18th century in the national socialist film / by Linda Marie Schiele Schulte-Sasse
Includes bibliographical references (p. 377-386)
Filmography: p. 387-391
Many National Socialist feature films have as their subjects historical figures not only associated with the pursuit of 'freedom' but with the era vehemently attacked by Nazi theoretists, the Enlightenment. In exploring this apparent contradiction, the dissertation deals broadly with the appropriation of history as a vehicle for the reinforcing Nazi ideology in films of the Third Reich, and focuses specifically on how films portraying the 18th century refunctionalize the era's emancipatory traditions. Geraint Parry's terms 'traditionalism' and 'rationalism' describe a central 18th century political debate to which Nazi historical films allude constantly. Rationalism is the philosophy behind enlightened absolutism contending that the state should apply universal, rational laws to ensure the social welfare, the 'happiness' of the populace. Traditionalism, often associated with the Estates, questioned the feasibility of such universal laws, which it claimed were at least potentially despotic. It advocated a form of government which would adapt itself to the pattern produced by each individual society, cultivating habits and customs within the tradition of the society rather than imposing change via an elite. Nazi films consistently portray rationalism as despotic and exploitative, as encouraging the egotism that emerged with the development of capitalism. The films favor a traditionalist position, which, however, is reread in terms of the Volkish 'blood and soil' ideology. The films often imitate the model of the burgerliches Trauerspiel, but reinterpret the genre in terms of 'romantic' anticapitalism. The dissertation sets up a theoretical framework by discussing the relationship of the film medium to the Nazis' aesthetization of political life and tracing the links between the original 18th century rationalism-traditionalism debate and late 19th to early 20th century antimodernist and Volkish movements. From here three major complexes of films set in the 18th century provide paradigms for studying the anticentralist ideology of narrative film under the Nazis: the antisemitic film Jud Su(beta), the Fridericus films mythologizing Frederick the Great, and the "genius" films, biographies of Friederich Schiller, Friedemann Bach, and Karoline Neuber. The dissertation concludes by comparing the historical model underlying filmic portrayals of the 18th century to films set in later eras.
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