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Australia 1973
Directed by
Philippe Mora
96 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Ruth Williams
4 stars

Swastika

Swastika is a feature length documentary about the way in which the Nazi regime infiltrated the lives of the German population, during 1933-45.

Philippe Mora’s film is entirely sourced from archival footage. A particularly fortuitous discovery was some rare footage taken by Eva Braun on a 16mm home movie camera that was discovered in American military vaults. The film itself is without a narrator, the only dialogue being added in post production. Lip readers were used to decipher what was being said, and if they couldn’t work out any passages, only actual quotes from the likes of Hitler, Goebbels, and Braun were included. Mora consciously chose not to have a voice-over as he wanted to allow the footage to speak for itself. What we are witness to therefore, is the way Hitler made the most of pomp and ceremony to win the hearts of the German people. One is reminded of the way in which the Romans used spectacle to please the masses (many people don’t know that the 1936 Olympics in Berlin were televised). There is a sense throughout the film that one of the things that caused the Germans to fall so willingly behind Hitler, is that he offered them a vision that would see their cultural inheritance take its rightful place on the world stage. He also created the environment that would allow the Germans to point the finger at a common enemy.

Seeing Hitler at home on the balcony of his chalet with Eva Braun and a never-ending stream of visitors, he comes across as a most charming man. And aren’t they the worst kind. At least if they look mean, or are captured on film carrying out acts of cruelty, it’s easy to see them as despicable. We see him playing the perfect host, even chatting effortlessly with small children, the perfect politician.

The impact of the film begins in the opening sequence, as a swastika spins towards us through outer space. To look at this shape rolling over and around, it starts to lose its association. After all, it’s a symbol that has been around since ancient times. It doesn’t take many scenes of flags and shop fronts and uniforms to see how the Nazis used it to further their own agenda. There was really no escape from it. Seeing the way in which the Germans were wooed by their charismatic leader points out how easy it can be to get caught up in something with little idea of where it is heading. And how it could happen to any country – a cautionary tale for these times when "freedom lies" are a standard strategy of the so-called democratic governments of the U.S.A. and Australia. The film was banned in Germany because, it seems, the powers that be didn’t want the populace to see how Hitler had been so adored.

 

 

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