Projecting Hitler : representations of Adolf Hitler in English-language film, 1968-1990
In the post-Second World War period, the medium of film has been arguably the leading popular culture protagonist of a demonized Adolf Hitler. Between 1968 and 1990, thirty-five English-language films featuring representations of Hitler were released in cinemas, on television, or on home video. In the 1968 to 1979 period, fifteen films were released, with the remaining twenty coming between 1980 and 1990. This increase reveals not only a growing popular fascination with Hitler, but also a tendency to use the Führer as a sign for demonic evil. These representations are broken into three categories – (1) prominent; (2) satirical; (3) contextualizing – which are then analyzed according to whether a representation is demonizing or humanizing. Out of these thirty-five films, twenty-three can be labeled as demonizing and nine as humanizing, and there are three films that cannot be appropriately located in either category. In the 1968 to 1979 period, four films employed prominent Hitler representations, five films satirized Hitler, with six contextualizing films. The 1980s played host to five prominent representations, six satires, and nine contextualizing films. In total, there are nine prominent representations, eleven satires and fifteen contextualizing films. Arguing that prominent representations are the most influential, this study argues that the 1968 to 1979 period formed and shaped the sign of a demonic Führer, and its acceptance is demonstrated by films released between1980 and 1990. However, the appearance of two prominent films in the 1980s which humanized Hitler is significant, for these two films hint at the beginnings of a breakdown in the hegemony of the Hitler sign. The cinematic demonization of Hitler is accomplished in a variety of ways, all of which portray the National Socialist leader as an abstract figure outside of human behaviour and comprehension. Scholarly history is also shown to have contributed to this mythologizing, as the “survival myth” and myth of “the last ten days” have their origins in historiography. However, since the 1970s film has arguably overtaken historiography in shaping popular conceptions of the National Socialist leader. In addition to pointing out the connections between film and historiography, this study also suggests other political, philosophical, and cultural reasons for the demonization of Adolf Hitler.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeKerr, Donald C.; Deutscher, Thomas B.; McCannon, John
Copyright DateDecember 2004