How Jean Renoir's The Great Illusion Became “Cinematic Enemy Number One” for the NazisJanuary 6, 2022
the great illusion
Contrary to popular belief, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels did not admit to spreading a "Big lie".
As the scholar of German propaganda Randall says Bytwerk: “Goebbels always argued that advertising had to be true. This is not to say that he has not lied, but he would have been a very weak propagandist if he had publicly proclaimed that he was going to lie.” Still, Goebbels incessantly accused others of lying and spreading dishonest propaganda, and he brutally repressed truths he found inconvenient. He was particularly furious at the 1937 premiere of a film by French director Jean Renoir (son of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir) called La Grande Illusion – a film that questioned many of the fantasies the Nazis seemed desperate to keep.
Among them was the idea that war was inevitable and desirable, that a natural aristocracy would rise above the common horde—and that elites should have no sympathy or sympathy for Jews or other minorities. These beliefs were central to the fascist ideology and to Goebbels' propaganda project. La Grande Illusion Renoir's undermined them all, despite being set in World War I and based on an even older British book, the great illusion from Norman Angell, 1909, who argued that war in Europe was economically destructive in contrast to mutual cooperation. Goebbels feared Renoir's anti-war film so much that he called it "cinematic enemy number one" and ordered that every print be turned in and burned and the original negatives destroyed.
Cinema Tyler explains in the video above how the effort to eliminate the great illusion "had all the power of the Nazi propaganda machine on a mission to destroy all copies." Failed. Like Roger Ebert note, the original negative, supposedly destroyed in an Allied air strike in 1942, "had already been noted by a German archivist by the name of Frank Hensel, then a Nazi official in Paris, who had it sent to Berlin."
In the 1960s, Renoir himself “supervised the assembly of a 'restored' copy”. Then, thirty years later, at the time of Ebert's publication in 1999, the original negative reappeared and a scintillating new copy circulated, renewing praise for a film that Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed, at the time of its release, “all democracies. of the world must see this movie”.
The film opened as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union aggressively positioned themselves in monumental pavilions for the 1937 International Exhibition of Arts and Techniques in Modern Life in Paris. Germany was three years away from invading France, and although Renoir could not know the future, the film uses its characters “to illustrate how the themes of the first war would tragically escalate in the second”, writes Ebert. It focuses on three captured French officers: “De Boieldieu (Pierre Fresnay), from an old aristocratic family…. Marshal (Jean Gabin), a worker, member of the emerging proletariat, and Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), a Jewish banker who ironically bought the castle that Boieldieu's family could no longer afford”.
The French officers' jailer, the wounded pilot von Rauffenstein (played by the silent great German filmmaker Erich von Stroheim), believes he has more in common with de Boieldieu than the latter with his countrymen, and in many ways, that proves it. . Still, the French aristocrat uses his privilege, as we say today, to help other prisoners escape, at the expense of his life. When Marshal and Rosenthal are given shelter by a German agricultural widow, “perhaps Renoir is whispering that the real class bond between enemy lines is between the workers, not between the rulers,” writes Ebert. Perhaps it was also the national solidarity among the prisoners that unnerved Goebbels — his persistent, “only obsession: escaping” despite the comfort of his captivity, as the movie trailer dramatically puts it. The war had not yet started, and yet, he writes TO Scott at The New York Times:
In France, at the end of the 1930s, were the years of Popular Front, an attempt by the left to thwart the rise of fascism and overcome its own tendencies towards sectarianism and orthodoxy. The political face of the front was Leon Blum, a moderate Jewish socialist whose two truncated and frustrating terms as prime minister coincided with the production and release of Renoir's film…. The action takes place during World War I (in which Renoir served as a pilot), when the Dreyfus case it was still a fresh memory, but it has an eye on contemporary anti-Semitism and labor militancy, as well as a subtle and anxious premonition of the global conflicts to come.
the great illusion not only inspired two of the most famous moments in film history – the tunnel in The Great Escape and the singing of “La Marseillaise” in Casablanca – but it remains, in itself, one of the greatest films ever made. (Orson Welles claimed it as one of only two films he would take with him "in the ark".
It continues in its “gently ironic” way, “questioning all kinds of 'illusions'”, writes David M. Lubin, “which in [Renoir's] view sustains modern warfare: that one side is morally superior to the other… that class divisions are natural, that men must be conventionally virile, that Jews are inferior to Gentiles, and so on. against. Instead of simply reporting The big Illusion like a big propagandistic lie, Goebbels tried to erase its existence.
This article was translated from the original in English by Copywriting Artes & contextos
The original article How Jean Renoir's Great Anti-War Film Grand Illusion Became "Cinematographic Enemy Number One" to the Nazis, was published @ Open Culture
The original articleHow Jean Renoir's Great Anti-War Film Grand Illusion Became "Cinematographic Enemy Number One" to the Nazis , appeared first @ Open Culture
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