If you are a movie history fan, then you may have been in heaven last night. The Turner Classic Movie Channel, TCM, aired the 2014 documentary film based on the 1947 book by Siegfried Kracauer, ″From Caligari to Hitler″. The book delves into the history, nature and impact of the Germany film industry during the years between World War 1 and 2. The documentary film follows the book well, and includes many interviews with scholars and critics, as well as a healthy collection of clips from movies produced during that era. Kracauer, a well-known sociologist, newspaper columnist and advocate for Marxism, details his opinion on how the German film industry set the stage during the Weimar Republic for the eventual rise of Adolph Hitler and Nazism.
Beginning with the silent film thriller, ″The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari″, Kracauer proposes that a range of themes were repeated throughout this period. Mass murder, mass insanity, mass hypnosis, mass depravity and mass society. Kracauer views the film industry as a mass art form to express the emotions and psychosis of society in general. Many of the recurring themes of German cinema during the Weimar Republic are that of disillusion, betrayal, class envy, social disorder and decay.
Films like ″M″ and ″Nosferatu″ show the extremely ugly side of society, of just how horrible life can be in the modern, urban world. Another movie, ″The People of Sunday″, focuses on the plight of young adults, particularly young women, forced by economics to work long hours for little money and be subjected to dominating males. While other films, such as ″The Blue Angel″, show the flip side of how men are taken advantage of by women, who exploit their sexuality and cost men everything, even their very lives. Perhaps the best known movie of this era, the science fiction classic, ″Metropolis″, is also explored and probed in every detail, symbolism, concept and metaphor.
You may disagree with some of the politics or even other philosophical aspects of the documentary, but if you enjoy movies and history, ″From Caligari to Hitler″ should be on your watch list! TCM aired it last night, along with several movies, such as ″Faust″ and ″The Blue Angel″. I give the whole thing very high praise! It certainly does make you wonder if based on how depraved our entertainment is, especially stuff on the Internet, how much longer our society will last? You can argue that the Weimar Republic was doomed from the start, so it is not a good example to draw serious conclusions from. But when you take it into context with the depravity in the entertainment of other societies and cultures of the past which crashed and burned, well, bless their hearts, doomsday for us can′t be long off!