Nazi Cinema as Enchantment

November 2003
18 black and white illustrations
304 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC PER004030, HIS014000, POL049000

Nazi Cinema as Enchantment

The Politics of Entertainment in the Third Reich

Mary-Elizabeth O'Brien


Hardback out of stock

A study of thirteen Nazi-era films that explores how entertainment cinema served everyday fascism.
The Nazi regime did not merely terrorize its citizens into submission; it also seduced them by offering stability, a traditional value system, a sense of belonging, and hope of a better standard of living. Nazi cinema's popularity rested on its ability to express positive social fantasies and promote the enchantment of reality, so that one would want to share in the dream at any price. This is an interdisciplinary study, written for scholars and students in the fields of film studies, German studies, history, critical studies, and political science, that explores how cinema participated in the larger framework of everyday fascism. The book examines how five film genres - the historical musical, the foreign adventure film, the home-front film, the melodrama, and the problem film - enchanted audiences and enacted shared stories that can tell us much about how family, community, history, the nation, and the war were imagined in Nazi Germany. The book analyzes thirteen motion pictures, many of which are not well known to English-speaking audiences: Wunschkonzert, Die große Liebe, Tanz auf dem Vulkan, Damals, Die Degenhardts, Opfergang, Kautschuk, Robert und Bertram, Verklungene Melodie, Frauen für Golden Hill, Das Leben kann so schön sein, Der verzauberte Tag, and Via Mala. Based on exhaustive research in German archives, the book examines, in addition to the films themselves, articles from the propaganda ministry's official organ, Der deutsche Film, daily trade sheets, fan magazines, and even studio press packages for individual stars and films.

Mary-Elizabeth O'Brien is Professor of German at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Table of Contents

History, Utopia, and the Social Construction of Happiness: The Historical Musical
Mapping German Identity: The Foreign Adventure Film
The Celluloid War: The Home-Front Film
Discontented Domesticity: The Melodrama
The Forbidden Desires of Everyday Life: The Problem Film
Works Cited


O'Brien carries the reader into the world of Babelsberg, the German Hollywood, where the reader sees Nazi filmmaking as a form of amusement that carries the Nazi message. CHOICE

The readings are integrated within a larger, compelling argument about the function of entertainment within the framework of Nazi culture so that the focus convincingly broadens the understanding of the complexities in this crucial period of German film history. MONATSHEFTE

O'Brien's book is the product of extensive archival research and provides numerous services to the reader... [Her] readings convincingly show how films not generally viewed as propaganda films were produced with explicit ideological goals in mind. GERMAN QUARTERLY

Clearly structured, ... the film interpretations are embedded in well-summarized historical contexts.... The book's eminent readability makes it enjoyable and accessible to the non-specialist. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

Author Bio

Skidmore College

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