Sunday, 16 June 2013

Hitler: The Rise of Evil (5 Stars)

This film was made for television in 2003 and deals with Adolf Hitler's rise to power. It begins with his youth and continues to 1934. When I first heard about Robert Carlyle being picked to play Hitler I was horrified. He looks nothing like Hitler! Or so I thought. The first photos of Carlyle changed my mind, and seeing him in the film itself convinced me. Everything from the mannerisms to the facial expressions made him more Hitler than Hitler. This is the mark of a true actor. Imagine if Tom Cruise had been picked to play Hitler. People would be laughing in the cinemas up and down America.

The film is based on several historical sources, but in particular the memoires of Ernst Hanfstaengl, who plays a prominent role in the film. His name is largely unknown today, but he was an important person in Hitler's rise to power. His official role was that of Hitler's press secretary, but effectively he created propaganda for Hitler, the role that was later fulfilled by Joseph Goebbels. He was a rich German who lived in America from 1904 to 1918. His wife was an American of German descent. He made many contacts during his studies at Harvard and through his business in New York, including a friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt. When Hanfstaengel allied himself with Hitler, Hitler's supporters were members of the working class. Hanfstaengel used his aristocratic background to introduce Hitler to wealthy circles who were able to donate to his cause.

I grew up in England, well after the second world war, and I always heard the same things: Hitler was stupid, an uneducated painter, etc. I always had problems believing this. How could a stupid man become a country's leader? Post-war propaganda. "The Rise of Evil" doesn't do this. It portrays Hitler as a powerful man with a sharp mind and outstanding leadership qualities. He was driven by two things: his love for Germany and his hatred of the Jews. Many people blame Hitler for instigating anti-semitism, but this is far from the case. In the early 20th Century, even before the first world war, anti-semitism was strong in Germany and Austria. For instance, German university clubs didn't allow Jewish students to become members. Many newspapers were openly critical of the Jewish influence on society. Anti-semitism isn't something that Hitler forced on the German people, it was already there, he only had to fan the flames to make it grow stronger.

The film is impressive, portraying Hitler's evil without resorting to the insults that are usually thrown at him by the war winners. I recommend this more than any other film about Hitler.

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