Jud Suss (1940)


Everyone should view a few of the Nazi propaganda films before they die. Nazis were not the ones who committed the atrocities, rather it was the mass of Germans. Whether they were manipulated or what we see as manipulative devices (like this film) is a matter for learned speculation. But there is no denying that the Nazi business was the first instance of a societal movement, even a perversion, being driven by cinema.

Germans for the 30s until the present are deeply cinematic in their imaginations (though oddly excepting Herzog not particularly profound). The propagandists intuited this, and all the narrative, the pageantry and the architecture were inherently cinematic and often reinforced by the thriving film industry.

This is perhaps not the best example because the storytelling is so effective and pure. Who would not be turned against someone who pollutes the justice of the system for personal riches and rapes innocents (just as in “Birth of a Nation”). That clarity obscures the larger mechanics of manipulation in film, that ALL film is powerful and very, very few films have lofty motives.

So the reason we should watch this stuff, is not so much to understand the German disaster, but to come to a slightly better handle on how the political narrative today is primarily cinematic and as manipulatable as this. So long as the narrative avoids a few lethal issues like genocide, it does its work.

I rewatched this because I owed it to myself. I recently saw the Pacino “Merchant.” I do not think the play anti-Semitic and wrote so. But anti-Semitism is still infecting the land, using the same old unkillable drivers. This does remind, though it lacks the “eating of Gentile babies” bit.

Posted in 2005

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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