Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hitler,the Holocaust and casual Humour

I've watched the German movie Der Untergang (2004) twice now, and I'll probably watch it again. Its a powerful movie that knocked me on my ass, and left me in tears.  It tells the story of the fall of the Third Reich and the final days of  Adolph Hitler in his bunker in east Berlin.  The movie was difficult to make in Germany given their sensitivity to such a topic.  Bruno Ganz's portrayal of Hitler is compelling and controversial, and I believe he took a huge career risk in accepting this role.  I had to push away the idea that the actor and the director were trying to evoke some sympathy about Hitler's character. I didn't work anyway, I felt nothing but loathing from the first scene to the end.

No one really knows what happened in those final days.  But many parts of the story are based on the real memoirs of Traudl Junge, who as a young woman in 1941, became Hitler's favourite secretary and was dictated most of his wartime documents. Through some good luck she escaped the final days of the Reich, was debriefed by the allies, then lived a typical life in postwar Germany  in relative obscurity. In her later years she wrote a memoir called Until the Final Hour.  This story about her life seems to be preoccupied with fairly simple questions,  why did the German people adore Hitler so much, and why did they turn a blind eye to the destruction of European Jews. The irony is that as a young woman she regarded him like a father, a man who was kind to her, and she disbelieved that Germany had done anything wrong.

The last part of the movie is very claustrophobic. Hitler is pinned down in his bunker.  Generals come and go and timidly inform the leader that they should surrender to the Allies. Hitler flies into one rage after another and demands that military strategies be executed.  The generals explain that there are no German armies left. Not long after this intense scene showing Hitler's deepest delusions, his suicide is portrayed.

Enter the clowns.

Because this movie was made in the German language the DVD ships with a number of subtitle files.  These files are easy to edit so you can write your own subtitles if you feel the need to make your friends laugh with a little Hitler humor.

The scene of Hitler raving has been edited hundreds of time on YouTube with subtitles showing the Fuhrer raving about the iPod or whatever other trivial topic that would make people laugh.  I saw about ten of these clips posted on Twitter and Facebook last week with the obligatory LOL's and this is funny preludes. Internet memes being what they are this one has gone viral and I imagine it will keep rolling for some time.

Do you remember how liberals reacted when a Utah movie rental company, owned by religious zealots, wanted to rent movies that they had re-edited to be safe for religious zealots to watch?  Of course they were stopped by the courts since they had no right to edit someone else's copyrighted work.  

In this case I believe these Der Untergang spoofs are copyright violations.  Moreover they are taking an incredibly powerful movie and mocking it. Who knew that the Holocaust could be such a powerful platform for social media humor.

Grow up. Stop watching these clips and go watch the whole movie. This isn't cheeseburger cats.

Please recommend this post

1 comment:

Backseat Blogger said...

I haven't seen the movie yet but it is on my to see list.

you are possibly right vis a vis the copyright question. however, the movie maker has not made any efforts to enforce his right. All that it would take would be quick note to youtube and down they would come. so your concerns are moot.

i strongly disagree with your comments about the humour of the internet meme. I have seen a lot of them and some are duds but some are truly hilarious. i've even seen a israeli one where hitler is complaining about the lack of parking in Tel Aviv.

the fact that it's a scene of hitler in his bunker makes it doubly hilarious. after all, here's history's greatest monster reduced to a demented, deluded fool. there's a lot of poetic justice there.