Background[ edit ] This work of film theory is one of the first major studies of German film between World War I and World War II and is best knowm for proposing a link between the apolitical and escapist orientation of Weimar-era cinema and later German totalitarianism. Kracauer—known as an important film critic in Germany from the s onward—moved from exile in France to the United States in Guggenheim foundations to conduct research on Nazi film. His first publication from these investigations is Propaganda and the Nazi War Film , examines visual themes in Nazi propaganda films as tools of psychologal influence.
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Jan 01, Printable Tire rated it it was amazing I spent a great amount of time with Siegfried Kracauer over the last semester in a class I took on Weimar Cinema: along with this book, I also read a significant amount of his Weimar-era essays collected in the Mass Ornament.
Of the books I read last semester, Caligari to Hitler was my favorite. Apart from being a good writer capable of beautiful phrases and stylistic flourishes, I find Kracauer to be an interesting, though tragic, figure.
Schooled as an architect, he wrote intellectual pieces I spent a great amount of time with Siegfried Kracauer over the last semester in a class I took on Weimar Cinema: along with this book, I also read a significant amount of his Weimar-era essays collected in the Mass Ornament.
To say he thought them worthy of observation is not to say he thought them of worth; but just as someone today might analyze reality television, selfies, or tumblr, he was one of the first at least in Germany to see popular activities as a mirror of the populace itself.
It is then interesting that being one of the Godfathers of media theory, Kracauer was in some ways a self-made intellectual, inventing some of the jargon of theory out of whole cloth. For example, his essays in the Mass Ornament seem to show him attempting to find for the modern age an Answer: no longer satisfied by the sanctity of church and alienated by the fleeting inhumanity of the hotel lobby, he never did find an Answer for How to Be in the modern age, and perhaps there is none.
Nonetheless, I would propose one answer Kracauer, with his genuine German earnestness and seriousness, could never accept: to live in the modern age, one must play-act. One must be a part of the church and the lobby, commit to both but never fully to either, for total commitment to either inevitably leads to a fascism of your soul.
But Kracauer never seems to have thought of compartmentalizing, of adopting multiple identities for multiple roles. His way of thinking is too serious, and he sees to redemption though levity. Caligari to Hitler was attempted years after the Third Reich had fallen, after Kracauer had forgone any versatility in his observations and had become more rigid in his judgments.
Before the Nazis had irrevocably conquered the hearts and minds of Germany but were quickly rising to such power, Kracauer had been offered jobs at leftist newspapers but had turned them down, perhaps believing, in vain, in the power of public debate over preaching to a complicit audience. Perhaps like other intellectuals his view of the Nazis at that time was also one of incredulousness, for how could such an obvious conglomeration of buffoons and thugs and schmaltz win the hearts and minds of Germany?
The same Germany that saw during the Weimar Republic an era of progressive ideas and sexual freedom became willfully conquered by authoritarian rule and fascistic ideology. And Kracauer had seen his friends murdered, and been forced to exile himself to America. Caligari to Hitler was then his attempt, after the war had ended and with funds procured by the US government, to discover why the Third Reich had happened.
He had found no answers to the modern age in the Weimar Era, but perhaps he could find why they had not been found, or rather why the final answer had become the Final Solution. His perspective is often cycloptic, for he reads into everything a subconscious premonition of fascism. His perspective is then itself fascist, as he can no longer read any ambiguity into anything.
At best, he comes off as obsessive, at worse, a conspiracy theorist. He wished leftist films had the same strength, but does not seem to grasp if they did they would not be good films, and in their own way fascist. He seems to want the impossible in films, some ideal cinematic progressive propaganda vision, and sees the lack of this vision, be it through popular and sentimental or artistic and ambiguous films, to be complicit with the rise of fascism.
And yet there must have been a solution. There must have been another solution, and I will find it if I search. Interestingly, he seems to be especially critical of youth films because the Nazis were particularly adept at influencing their disciples when they were young and in need of direction and discipline.
The fact that his quest is ultimately fruitless and desperate makes one believe that such an approach can only lead inevitably to heartbreak. There was no copy to be found in the entire greater Columbia, SC library system. I didnt particularly want to own this book, and luckily my boyfriend was able to obtain a copy from a small satellite branch of USC. When I finally received the musty book there was a card glued to the back, listing all the dates when it had been checked out.
The book was checked out less than a dozen times since it was purchased by USC Beaufort in My checkout date was I almost had to buy this book on Amazon. I tried to imagine this lonely book sitting on the shelf for almost two decades. When it was last checked out I was in elementary school and knew nothing of the joys of German expressionism and silent film.
I grew up, graduated elementary school and high school, got a B. All while it waited patiently in Beaufort. The magic of Netflix streaming has allowed me to gain a newfound interest in silent movies. After watching a dozen or so, I quickly realized that many of the best silent movies were made in Germany Metropolis, The Last Laugh etc.
That struck me as odd because nowadays, Germany is not known for its film industry. This period is also an interesting moment in German history; the rebuilding of the economy after WWI, the rise of socialism and Hitler. I was intrigued and wanted to know more.
He uses that word several dozen times in each chapter. It refers to the confusion of the German public after WWI and their unwillingness to extend their emotional and intellectual boundaries. Kracauer explains in detail how popular movies produced during this era exposed the immaturity of the German people during this period.
Other movies show the nascent growth of the use of film as a means of propaganda, a skill that reached fruition during WWII. He is able to refer back to his past writings, and those of his fellow critics, and discern the authoritarian yearnings in mass entertainment. It reads like a thesis, with lots of repetition and conjecture.
Biografie[ bewerken brontekst bewerken ] Kracauer werd geboren in een Joodse familie in Frankfurt. Van tot studeerde hij architectuur en behaalde een doctoraat in techniek in Van tot was Kracauer actief als film- en literatuureditor van de nieuwskrant Frankfurter Zeitung. Kracauer bekritiseerde, recenseerde en analyseerde op vele gebieden als circussen, fotografie, films, reclame maken, toerisme, de lay-out van steden en dans. In publiceerde Kracauer Die Angestellten. Het artikel gaf een kritische kijk op de nieuwe klasse werknemers die toentertijd ontstond. De groep die hij bekritiseerde waren de kantoor- en administratiebanen en sales-afdelingen.
From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film