Nazis in popular film
Nazism is a popular subject for all film producers. Some like the film to be graphical representation, whereas other producers prefer to show Nazis in a slightly comical light. I will be writing about these four films; The Lion King, Schindlers List, Triumph of the Will and Caboret, and how the directors use camera angles to portray people in different ways.
Triumph of the Will was a pro-Nazi film. Directed by Leni Riefenstahl in 1934, it shows Hitler in a way that few films rarely show: kindness. He is waving to the crowd, smiling, and shaking hands with ordinary members of the public, which is very different from the Hitler portrayed in many other films; violent, angry, spitting, and always issuing commands. As the film opens, Hitler is flying in a plane. S the camera flies with him, the clouds give a sense of eternity, thus giving the impression that the Nazi party will go on forever. As the plane descends from the clouds, you can see the shadow of the plane gliding over the streets below. This shadow represents an eagle, which is the top predator of the food chain, and is superior to other beings.
This is a type of symbolism used to represent the power of the Nazi party. Another use of symbolism is the insignia and flags. Apart from the circle around the swastika, the rest of the Nazi insignia and flags are in straight lines. This has some relevance to the Romans, as they used to march in straight lines and had the eagle as a symbol. This is how the crowds are arranged along the sides of the streets. When Hitler stands on the balcony, the crowd cheers and starts chanting showing his immense popularity as the peoples man. This reminds the audience about the work Hitler has done to make Germany a great power.
The music, along with the camera shots, play an important part in this scene. At the beginning, the music is stirring with passion and pride, giving the audience the feeling that something historical is about to happen, and that they will be a part of it. As the plane descends and lands, a militaristic march comes into play, giving a sense of anticipation. When Hitler steps out of the plane, the music is louder, and close-ups of smiling children are given. When he is being driven to his hotel, the music tones down, becoming almost romantic, implying the Germanys love for Hitler. As Hitler ascends towards the balcony, the music becomes intense with anticipation. When he reaches the balcony and waves, there is a great clash of music and cheering.
Camera angles are used throughout this scene, and they are mostly from Hitlers point of view; looking up at buildings and people, showing how great Germany is, and how he is above everyone else. There are also shots of children with blonde hair and blue eyes and crowds in straight lines. The children represent the pure race in which Hitler believed in and the crowds synchronizing the Roman armys discipline towards its generals.
During the Nazis time in WW2 Germany, many Jews, as well as other nationalities, were unaware of the full ferocity, brutality and determination of the party.
Schindlers list was directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993. The liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto was possibly one of the worst acts against Jews during the war. In this part of the film, Jews, who flourished here for over six centuries, were evicted from their homes, and were separated to be sent away to the Ghetto. The beginning of this scene is surprisingly normal for a Nazi film two men (Goeth and Schindler) were shaving and getting dressed. In the background, Goeths voice is harsh as he speaks to his army and talks about the eradication of the Jewish population from the Ghetto. They are the same men at the beginning, sharing their hatred of Jews, but, at the end, they are two different men, because Schinder sees the suffering that the Jews go through.
As Schindler is dressing and looking out window, Goeths voice is heard addressing his soldiers. He talks coldly of eliminating Jews from the Ghetto, but triumphantly when he talks about destroying the evidence that they lived. The speech is similar to that of the Triumph of the Will because it is pro Nazi. The German soldiers speak in German to make them seem alienated from everyone around them. The only time they do speak English is if important points need to be relayed to the audience.
Jews are one of the focuses in this scene. They are treated like dogs by the German soldiers. Numerous families are shown in this scene. One family tries to prevent their jewellery from being destroyed, by swallowing it inside pieces of bread. This shows their anxiety to try and save what they have left. They are brave, as some try to resist being taken into concentration camps to be shot or gassed. One person tries to escape, through two ways; the first way, he tries to find a way through the sewer, but fails. The second way, he clears baggage to escape from the soldiers. When the German soldiers laugh at him and mock him and laugh. This implies that they are human, because they cans how emotions to some things, but not always at others.
Music is also used to contrast the Nazis and the Germans, and to create different moods for different times in the scene. When Goeth is talking to his soldiers, a Jewish prayer can be heard in the background. It shows that the Jews are oblivious about the danger ahead of them. The song which Jewish children are singing while the killing is going on, gives a sense of hope to the audience. This song is appropriate, as the girl in the little red dress represents Schinders understanding. When the girl crawls under the bed to hide, she turns to monochrome, as Schindler has already understood the situation of the Jews. She is also there as a lead, because wherever the audience look, there are signs of devastation.
Tomorrow Belongs to Me is a scene from a musical called Caboret. It was directed by Bob Fosse in 1972. Although this film is not about the Nazis, it shows their rise to power in the background of the film. This is based on the Triumph of the Will, because Nazism is being encouraged to all ages, and is shown by a boy singing Tomorrow Belongs to Me. It starts off innocently; a boy with pale blonde hair and bright blue eyes, and the camera looking up at him against the clear blue sky gives a sense of purity. However, when the camera zooms out to reveal a Nazi swastika, it becomes clear what is happening.
At the beginning of the song, no-one joins in, showing that the Nazis theory wasnt popular with everyone. However, as the song progresses, people start to join in and close-ups of happy faces of young men and women singing are shown, implying that their ideas were beginning to become popular. There was an old man, however, who didnt join in, as he was probably a veteran of the First World War, and knew the horrors of it. Near the end, a man in a building hears the song and smiles widely, as, (like the audience) knows the outcome of this song, while everyone else is oblivious to it and joins in. The camera gives a close up of the boy looking up at him from a distance, with straight lines ahead and behind him, representing how already the people were being cased for use.
The song Be Prepared comes from the Lion King. It is based on Hitler addressing his storm troopers for war. This song shows Disneys sympathies towards Hitler in the 1930s up to the war. It is based on the Triumph of the Will, but not as strongly as Caboret, because the hyenas cover the truth about the horrors in WW2 with humour. When Scar is speaking to the three hyenas at the beginning, his shadow is enlarged on the wall behind him, symbolizing power. When he jumps down onto the floor, clouds of green smoke come out from cracks in the ground, giving a sense of eeriness and suspense. When he talks to the hyenas during the song, he makes them look inferior, and makes them look stupid. Wherever he stands, his shadow is always blown out of proportion to his body. When he jumps onto the ground and makes it crack and rise, making him look superior.
Camera angles play an important part in this scene. When Scar is talking, he is always looked up on, stating his sense of authority. The hyenas are always looked down upon, implying that they are below Scar. The angles also show close up of the characters faces, giving them a unique quality. For example, when Scars face is shown, it is mostly in shadow, and his green eyes give a hypnotic aurora. The hyenas faces look humourous and dim-witted to the audience. At the end, where Scar and the hyenas are standing on the vast column of rock, the screen turns from colour to monochrome, leaving only the moon and the deep sky in colour.
Leni Riefenstahl, Steven Spielberg and Bob Fosse show Nazis in different ways in their film. They try to maximize the impact on their audiences by creating scenes that are designed for a different purpose. For example, Schindlers List shows Nazis in the way that many audiences will have learnt to know by other films; violent and murderers. But Triumph of the Will shows Hitler in a good light, which is rarely shown nowadays, as many people despise him for the atrocities he did in WW2. Caboret is similar to Triumph of the Will rather than Schindlers List, as it does not show Nazis persecuting Jews, but it shows their rise to power in the background.
If written in a book, Schindlers List would be the hardest to publish because it would be difficult to describe the fear, anxiety and anticipation of the film. It also would be hard to describe the voices in the film, and the music and movements, as there is constant movement through out the film. I think that Triumph of the Will would be the easiest to publish because it only has music, close-ups, movements and speech to describe and portray. Although Caboret is similar to Schindlers List, There isnt as much detail or expression shown in the film.
Cinematography relates to narrative methods, dialogue as well as music. In Schindlers List, the camera is usually face-to-face with the character, to show their expressions when they talk or listen. When looking at the German buildings, they are bleak and tall, and gives the sense of power and brutality. In Caboret, the German boy is shown enlarged and looked up on, showing superiority above the audience in the stands. The audience is shown as unwary to the danger ahead of them. In triumph of the Will, the crowds are almost always looked down upon, and the close-ups of faces show happiness. But, these faces are always in sunlight, so it makes them look as if they are grimacing. Hitler is always looked up on, or there are shots looking at his face of looking from his point of view.
Dialogue and music are used side-by-side to make the film more effective in portraying the message across to its audience. In Schindlers List, dialogue is used to show the characters feelings and state when needed. For example, when the Jewish family are swallowing their jewellery, the voices are rushed and whispered, implying their state of emergency and the feeling of worry and distress. Music is also used to give a sense of hope and unwariness to the audience. For example, when Schindler is looking down on the slaughter below, there is a choir singing to give hope and relief while gunshots and screams can be heard in the background. In Caboret, the background music with the dialogue for the song is insinuating and militaristic, giving the audience a strong urge to get up and salute the Nazi party. The song itself is filled with passion and pride, giving the audience a sense of hope and encouragement to do what the want to do.
These films are constantly being shown to modern audiences around the world, each representing the same theme in WW2; Nazis in popular film. Each film gives the directors point of view about the Nazis, and how they felt about them. Steven Spielberg, being Jewish himself, felt hatred towards the Nazis, and wanted to portray the Nazis as being brutal and non-emotional people. Walt Disney, however, was sympathetic towards the Nazis, and this is shown by the humour of the hyenas in the song Be Prepared. Tomorrow Belongs to Me is similar to the Lion King, but it shows Nazism in a neutral light, showing neither hatred or sympathy towards the Nazis. Triumph of the Will is pro-Nazism, but it shows how Leni Riefenstahl believed how Hitler worked for Germany rather than take it over by force.
These films give the directors point of view about Nazis in WW2. Triumph of the Will shows Nazis in a good light, but Schindlers List shows them in a bad light. Some of the views raised in these films are still occurring today at the turn of a century, but are put down immediately to stop another world war from escalating. But, even if it does not occur, it makes you remember the slaughter in WW1 and in WW2, and that, to every viewer, is a film in itself.