Nazi Film Melodrama

Nazi Film Melodrama

LAURA HEINS
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt3fh459
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  • Book Info
    Nazi Film Melodrama
    Book Description:

    Focusing on German romance films, domestic melodramas, and home front films from 1933 to 1945, Nazi Film Melodrama shows how melodramatic elements in Nazi cinema functioned as part of a project to move affect, body, and desire beyond the confines of bourgeois culture and participate in a curious modernization of sexuality engineered to advance the imperialist goals of the Third Reich. Rather than reinforcing traditional gender role divisions and the status quo of the nuclear family, these films were much more permissive about desire and sexuality than previously assumed. Offering a comparative analysis of Nazi productions with classical Hollywood films of the same era, Laura Heins argues that Nazi melodramas, film writing, and popular media appealed to viewers by promoting liberation from conventional sexual morality and familial structures, presenting the Nazi state and the individual as dynamic and revolutionary. Drawing on extensive archival research, this perceptive study highlights the seemingly contradictory aspects of gender representation and sexual morality in Nazi-era cinema.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09502-3
    Subjects: History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction. Melodrama in the Nazi Cinema: The Domestic War
    (pp. 1-12)

    The Nazi film industry, although the weapon of a regime founded on brutal militarism, produced at least ten times more domestic and romance melodramas than war films. Cinema was highly instrumentalized in the Third Reich, yet at first glance the chosen forms for the transmission of Nazi ideology may not always appear logical. How can the intense focus on the private sphere, intimate relations, female protagonists, and love in the cinema of a masculine, genocidal, imperialist state be explained? Why would the Nazis invest so heavily in a genre that, as Laura Mulvey has stated, “revolves so openly around sexuality...

  5. 1. An Aesthetics of Aggression: German Fascist vs. Classical Hollywood Melodrama
    (pp. 13-44)

    Melodrama, as Linda Williams asserts, is the “fundamental mode of popular American moving pictures.”¹ According to this account, almost all Hollywood films can be considered melodramatic, including “male genres” such as Westerns, war films, film noir, and action films. Melodrama, of course, can also be considered the fundamental mode of fascist film. Nazi cinema, like Italian Fascist cinema, tended toward simplification and dualistic perspectives. The Nazi propaganda minister disapproved of film scripts in which conflicts were not clearly and simply drawn. Characters in Third Reich film projects had to represent primary social functions and be immediately legible types rather than...

  6. 2. The Nazi Modernization of Sex: Romance Melodrama
    (pp. 45-94)

    According to a statistical analysis of the titles of films produced during the Third Reich, Frau(en) and Liebe were the most common nouns used in naming products of the Nazi cinema.¹ “Women” and “love” were the terms deemed most effective for drawing audiences to the theaters, and presumably they were also considered the most effective for the drawing out of nationalist energies and the erasing of internal conflicts. The erotic drive can be considered the main motor of German fascist cinema, the very basis of spectator pleasure, narrative construction, and the creation of meaning. In this it was entirely consistent...

  7. 3. Breaking Out of the Bourgeois Home: Domestic Melodrama
    (pp. 95-142)

    In 1943 a stenographer in Frankfurt was arrested by the SS for circulating the following satirical poem among colleagues in her office: “The one who rules in the Russian way, / His hair styled according to French fashion, / His mustache cut in the English manner, / And was himself not born in Germany, / The one who taught us the Roman salute, / Who desires many children from our women, / And cannot father any of his own, / That is Germany’s leading man.”¹ As this case demonstrates, Goebbels had carried out his promise to remain fanatically stubborn in...

  8. 4. Germany’s Great Love vs. the American Fortress: Home Front Melodrama
    (pp. 143-192)

    When the United States entered the Second World War in 1941, the American film melodrama went to battle against the Nazis, and Nazi cinema continued to fight for supremacy over Hollywood. After he saw Hollywood’s first major home front melodrama of World War II, Mrs. Miniver (1942), Goebbels ordered German filmmakers and screenwriters to study the film and adapt its exemplary propaganda devices to Nazi use.¹ Mrs. Miniver remained a standard against which the Nazis measured the success of their own films; in 1944 they triumphantly reported that their extramarital romance melodrama Opfergang had brought in more box office receipts...

  9. Epilogue. Reprivatization after Nazi Cinema: Postwar German Melodrama
    (pp. 193-204)

    In spring 1944, as the Reich was preparing for total war and nervously anticipating the Allied invasion, stories of Wehrmacht officers’ lavish lifestyles in occupied territories circulated among the German home front populace, disillusioning many who believed in the mythic power of an ordered and unified Volksgemeinschaft. The Nazi “deployment of sexuality” was backfiring on several fronts, and the libidinal, cinematic weapon of war was faulted as a failed technology. In Security Service reports the regime’s spies shifted responsibility for military defeat away from the Nazi leadership’s imperialist fantasies of mass destruction and toward the supposed destruction caused by excessive...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 205-224)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-232)
  12. Index
    (pp. 233-240)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-246)