The Magic Flute

Not rated yet!
Kenneth Branagh
2 h 13 min
Release Date
7 September 2006
Comedy, Drama, Music
During World War I, in an unnamed country, a soldier named Tamino is sent by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter Pamina from the clutches of the supposedly evil Sarastro. But all is not as it seems.
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Conservative Film Buff1

(Reviewers' Site/Bio)
  • The Magic Flute, 2006 - ★★½

    I like the idea of translating an opera to film. I’m surprised it hasn’t been done more. Branagh seemed like the right person to do it. The singing is phenomenal and the idea of setting this classic Mozart opera in WWI was intriguing, but the execution wasn’t ideal. A lot of bad choices like excessive camera movements, too much overhead shooting for no reason, bad CGI, and a tacky aesthetic (The Queen of the Night rides a tank) make this something I’m glad I watched, but wouldn’t recommend. 

    I would love to see a film opera done right. Something that could appeal to a wide audience and really work.

    At least Branagh had good singers.

    (Review Source)

VJ Morton2
Right Wing Film Geek

(Reviewers' Site/Bio)
  • Toronto — Day 1 capsules

    Toronto — Day 1 capsules

    THE MAGIC FLUTE (Kenneth Branagh, Britain, 2006, 3)

    Ingmar Bergman has nothing to worry about. Just a godawful mess that will satisfy nobody. If you walk in innocent of the original, you won’t be able to make head or tail of it, and singing it in English doesn’t help a whole lot since opera-style singing is hard to follow even in a language you understand. If you already know the original, you’re still limited by (1) it wasn’t the tightest, most-logically-plotted, obscure-symbolism-free opera to begin with; and (2) Branagh kinda sets it in World War I (to the extent that this opera can be said to have a setting at all) and plops a lot of confused and confusing pacifist propaganda onto it. It’s supposed to make it tries to make it Important and Relevant. Instead, it pretty much brings the music down to the level of the New Seekers — “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” Pretty much. The music is too good not to survive this, though. Some record company or studio should sign that guy up.

    THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO CINEMA (Sophie Fiennes, Britain, 2006, 7)

    The important thing to understand is that this is not a film. It’s a work of film criticism, but as that, it’s very strong and the best possible film of its kind. PERVERT’S GUIDE is only 2 1/2 hours of Freudian philosopher/film critic Slavoj Zizek talking about how films work and how they help construct our sexual and other subjectivities. There’s plenty of well-chosen clips to illustrate his points, but, funny if predictable variations in setting aside, not much more than him talking and showing clips. So obviously PERVERT’S GUIDE is not in the league of either THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS or ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANDREI ARSENEVITCH. Neither is it particularly groundbreaking in terms of its ideas per se, and some of them are rather dubious. But Zizek really has star presence and the entertaining “voice” to sell his ideas, at least for the length of the film. He has the fumbling-English Mitteleuropa-sage bit down pat, and his takes on DOGVILLE, PSYCHO and THE CONVERSATION, plus Tarkovsky and Haneke and Fritz Lang made me sit up and take notice (his tastes are practically wired into mine). Hey, if boring European psychobabble can be made this interesting, bring it on.

    THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany, 2006, 8 )

    Someone on St. Blogs a few weeks ago (I forget who) wanted to know why Hollywood never makes movies about Communist tyranny. I hold no brief for the US industry, but there are such films made in the countries that lived under it. THE LIVES OF OTHERS is a tautly-dramatic and suspenseful film (if not exactly a “thriller”) about surveillance in East Germany — a companion piece to the nostalgia comedy GOODBYE LENIN from a few years ago. Its richly ironic plot tells of how and why a playwright who was the most loyal artist in East Germany was bugged by state security, what happened, how and why he turned against East Germany, and how his Stasi surveiller unwittingly got involved, both for good and for ill. LIVES won a very lengthy standing ovation from the Elgin audience Thursday night, it’s obviously very accessible and conventionally entertaining, and so it’s destined to be one of the major foreign-film releases in the US next year, after having dominated the German Oskars. Unlike a lot of broadly-seen foreign films, this one will deserve the praise. It’s subtly acted in a nicely low-key — Hitchcock noted the gap between what people say and what they mean, and the performances are all at least good in this vein. Because it establishes very quickly the ubiquity of spying and the effectiveness of the East German secret police, everything has a suspenseful aura over it, even the scenes you wouldn’t call “set pieces.” Goes about 3 minutes too long though — everything after a certain newspaper headline is in my opinion redundant.

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    1. […] ago about Fiennes and Slavoj Zizek’s THE PERVERTS GUIDE TO CINEMA a few years ago at Toronto (, only more so. IDEOLOGY repeats the formula, only more so – it’s 60 percent brilliant, 20 […]

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  • It’s Toronto Time
    (”The Magic Flute” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    It’s Toronto Time

    I make my annual pilgrimage to the Toronto Film Festival starting tomorrow, and one person at work already has asked me specifically whether I’ll be seeing the Bush assassination movie.

    I had DOAP on my initial, broken-down-by-days short-list, and I have the scheduling notes to prove it. There are some plot resemblances to THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, so using an assassination (attempt) on a current named political figure as a fictional premise doesn’t per se trouble me (but more on that anon). And the style/premise — a muck-raking “documentary” set in the future tells the real story of what happened in the Bush Assassination — resembles the great ZELIG, which I think is one of Woody Allen’s two or three best films. In a different world, this is a movie I would, in principle, be interested in.

    Unless Noah Cowan’s description is completely bollixed (which would not be unprecedented … in fact in some cases, I’m downright hoping for it), I can’t imagine wanting to see this film at this festival. Most unconvincing line in Cowan’s description — “The film is never a personal attack on Bush; Range simply seeks to explore the potential consequences that might follow from the President’s policies and actions.” Reminds me of George Will’s description of how a negative-campaigning candidate defends his ads: “I am not being negative, I am merely alerting the public to my loathesome opponent’s squalid voting record.”

    I won’t relate the specific examples until Bilge puts up my Worst Moviegoing Experiences on the Nerve Screengrab blog, but I have had enough “lone Celtic supporter at the Rangers end” moments to know how art-house and film-festival audiences will consume DOAP which will inevitably color my reaction. At Toronto, “Fidelista” is a term of praise (just read this and weep) and Bush Derangement Syndrome and Christophobia are normal. First example to pop into my head from this year, go to the listing for AMAZING GRACE and ask yourself how you would know, other than a vague and unspecified reference to “man of the cloth,” whether religion might be involved and (more specifically) how, and what the title might refer to (you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a reference to how hot the chick in the picture is).

    In this time, at that context, DOAP will be consumed as a masturbatory fantasy and I wouldn’t put a round of applause or cheering. Maybe someday, alone, after the film has died its death and nobody remembers how Karl Rove tried to turn Valerie Plame over to Osama bin Laden in exchange for campaign contributions to pay off Katharine Harris (that IS what he did, right?), I’ll see DOAP Not now.

    I dunno why this film hasn’t gotten as much flak. But if DOAP is inherently and a priori distasteful, it’s hard to see why a film called HOW I PLANNED TO KILL TONY BLAIR wouldn’t be. Still, while I’m pretty much past the point of interest in anything the artist/bohemian class thinks it has to say about politics, I will be going to see at least one political doc. THE DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING has the potential to be a HARLAN COUNTY USA (director Barbara Kopple, plus my unfamiliarity with the Chicks’s music, is why I’m interested) or the few minutes of FAHRENHEIT 9/11 that I managed to endure when I finally broke down a few months ago and it was playing on a free channel (Sundance). When I know the personages involved, I try to pay as little attention to the descriptions in the Festival Guidebook, so I’ll approach DIXIE CHICKS with the guarded optimism that is obligatory.

    As for my schedule, this year was one of the worst for not getting my first choices — I must have drawn a bad box. For the couple of days, i.e., opening weekend, I mostly got second-choice films (though mostly pretty good ones) and overall missed more than a half-dozen of my first choices.

    I didn’t get the single to-the-general-public morning screenings of Gala presentations and likely fall awards-bait VOLVER by Almodovar and Inarritu’s BABEL, the former of which I’m more bummed about and will consider going into the rush line to see if I can get a ticket. After all, Almodovar has reportedly managed to get a tolerable performance from Penelope Cruz, acting in Spanish again and who, like Sophia Loren (a previous generation’s favorite Latin sexpot), is much better in her native language.

    Some of the other not-gotten 1st choices, all of which I’m considering rushing:
    ● There is much anger in me when I not getting much ticket to important Kazakhstani cinema. Will start and joining with campaign against racist film making many funs of great country Kazakhstan.
    ● I should have known that the title THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO CINEMA would just be too attractive to too many, even (especially) to those with no knowledge of Slavoj Zizek (apparently playing a Michael Palin-like guide). I hope they choke on the Lacanisms.
    ● Why the heck would a Kore-eda film (HANA) be a big buzz item? I thought NOBODY KNOWS was a masterpiece, but it was not a crowd-please at all. And while it did win a general release, it flopped.
    No Maddin 06. Like with the Kore-eda I hope it’s because a great filmmaker is finally winning an audience, but man, this would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience — seeing a silent film with an orchestra, which includes a sound-effects team, a singer and a narrator. The kind of screening a festival is made for.

    But I can’t complain too hard. Here is my schedule of the films I got ticket for, and it’s a good mix of foreign and English, my favorite auteurs and buzz titles, austere and popcorn, and a few blind stabs in the dark — exactly what a festival is about:

    7 Sept
    02:00pm The Magic Flute (Kenneth Branagh, Britain)
    09:00pm The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany)

    8 Sept
    09:00am 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania)

    Dunno why I got both my 1st and 2nd choices for this time … will sort out later

    09:30am The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, Canada)
    11:45am Requiem (Hand-Christian Schmid, Germany)
    03:00pm Climates (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)
    06:15pm A Grave-Keeper’s Tale (Chitra Palekar, India)
    09:00pm Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show (Ari Sandel, USA)
    midnight The Host (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea)

    9 Sept
    09:15am La Tourneuse de Pages (Denis Dercourt, France)
    noon The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, Britain)
    03:00pm The Fall (Tarsem, Britain/India)
    06:30pm Half Moon (Bahman Ghobadi, Iran)
    09:15pm Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

    10 Sept
    03:15pm Born and Bred (Pablo Trapero, Argentina)
    06:30pm Offside (Jafar Panahi, Iran)
    08:45pm Cashback (Sean Ellis, Britain)

    11 Sept
    09:30am All The King’s Men (Steve Zaillian, USA)
    noon For Your Consideration (Christopher Guest, USA)
    03:30pm 10 Items or Less (Brad Silberling, USA)
    06:00pm Fay Grim (Hal Hartley, USA)
    09:00pm I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan)

    12 Sept
    09:00am Takva – A Man’s Fear of God (Ozer Kiziltan, Turkey)
    11:45am The Pleasure of Your Company (Michael Ian Black, USA)
    03:00pm Coeurs (Alain Resnais, France)
    05:30pm Outsourced (John Jeffcoat, USA)
    midnight Trapped Ashes (Joe Dante, Ken Russell, Sean Cunningham, Monte Hellman, John Gaeta, USA)

    13 Sept
    09:30am Dixie Chicks – Shut Up and Sing (Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, USA)
    noon Mon Meilleur Ami (Patrice Leconte, France)
    02:30pm Little Children (Todd Field, USA)
    04:45pm Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul aka “Joe,” Thailand)
    09:00pm Grbavica (Jasmila Zbanic, Bosnia)

    14 Sept
    noon Breaking and Entering (Anthony Minghella, Britain)
    03:00pm The Fountain (Darren Aronovsky, USA)
    06:00pm King and the Clown (Lee Jun-ik, South Korea)
    09:30pm Red Road (Andrea Arnold, Britain)
    midnight Severance (Christopher Smith, Britain)

    15 Sept
    09:45am A Few Days Later (Niki Karimi, Iran)
    12:45pm The Island (Pavel Lounguine, Russia)
    03:00pm Seraphim Falls (David von Ancken, USA)
    09:00pm Belle Toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, France)

    16 Sept
    08:45am The Dog Problem (Scott Caan, USA)
    noon The Banquet (Feng Xiaogang, China)
    04:45pm Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, USA)
    09:00pm Lights in the Dusk (Aki Kaurismaki, Finland)

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    (Review Source)

Counter Currents Staff2
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  • Hitler as Artist & Patron
    (”The Magic Flute” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]3,042 words

    Frederic Spotts
    Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics
    New York: The Overlook Press, 2003

    Leaders throughout history have frequently deployed the arts as a means by which to display their power. Hitler is unusual, however, in that art was central to his political vision. He was intensely interested in the arts (painting, sculpture, music, and architecture) and dreamed of forging a state whose artistic and cultural achievements would rival those of ancient Greece and Rome. All told, he was the greatest art patron of the twentieth century.

    Most biographers have passed over this topic. Ian Kershaw has declared that Hitler was a “non-person” whose life was a “void” outside of politics. Hugh Trevor-Roper has dismissed Hitler’s artistic taste as “trivial, half-baked, and disgusting.” Hitler is generally derided as nothing more than a mediocre watercolorist.

    Frederic Spotts’s Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics is the only major study of Hitler’s engagement with the arts. Spotts marshals a large body of evidence proving the importance of art and architecture both to Hitler himself and to National Socialism at large. He is remarkably even-handed, considering his subject. The book is also liberally illustrated with photographs and copies of Hitler’s sketches.

    Hitler’s artistic obsession began in his early adolescence. At the age of 12, he decided that he wanted to be a great painter. He spent his days drawing and painting and could think of little else. It was around this time that he attended his first play, Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell, and his first opera, Lohengrin. The latter made a deep impression on him. “I was captivated at once,” he later wrote. “My youthful enthusiasm for the Master of Bayreuth knew no bounds. Again and again I was drawn to his works” (224).

    Hitler applied twice to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and was rejected both times. (The reason provided upon his first attempt: “few heads.”) At 19, he arranged a meeting to discuss his career prospects with the famed set designer Alfred Roller but got cold feet and never showed up. As the story goes, he became a drifter, earning income from his sketches of sites around Vienna. During this time, he read voraciously on the subjects of history, philosophy, art, and architecture. He recounted of these years: “I had but one pleasure: my books” (6).

    Hitler never became the great painter he dreamed of becoming, but his artistic aspirations influenced his approach to politics and became intertwined with his political ambitions. Spotts writes: “The artist creates his own world out of nothing. Hitler took the existing world and tried to turn it into his own. His dream was to create a culture-state in which Germans were to listen to music he liked, attend operas he loved, see paintings and sculptures he collected and admire the buildings he constructed” (401).

    One of Hitler’s first acts as Chancellor was to construct the House of German Art (Haus der Deutschen Kunst), a museum for contemporary German art. The opening date of the inaugural exhibit was celebrated with a festival (Tag der Deutschen Kunst) dedicated to “2000 Years of German Culture.” It featured more than 6000 marchers, 26 floats, and 500 animals. The exhibit and festival became an annual tradition. Footage from the 1939 festival survives today [2].

    Events such as the opening of exhibitions, the laying down of cornerstones and dedication of buildings, etc. were frequently commemorated with parades and festivals. Hitler conceived of these state-sponsored spectacles as works of art. They were akin to grand operatic productions, replete with flags, banners, bands and singers, salvoes, flyovers, etc.

    The infamous Degenerate Art exhibit opened shortly following the opening of the exhibit at the House of German Art. The exhibit was the idea of Goebbels but was endorsed by Hitler, who detested Modernist art. Hitler remarked on the irony that wealthy Jewish dealers who profited from conning their customers into paying exorbitant prices for mediocre Modernist art often adorned their own homes with great works by Old Masters.

    Another early initiative was the establishment of the Reich Chamber of Culture. The purpose of this organization was to create a union of German artists, promote German art, and to purge the artistic sphere of Jews, Communists, liberals, etc. The Chamber’s inaugural ceremony, held on November 15, 1933, was attended by many prominent artists and featured performances of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture (conducted by Furtwängler); Schubert, Wolf, and Strauss lieder; Strauss’s Festival Prelude (conducted by Strauss himself); and the “Wach auf!” chorus from Die Meistersinger. Goebbels gave a speech in which he declared that the Third Reich would promote “German art and culture in all areas” (78).

    Artists occupied a high position in the Third Reich. Hitler was liberal in his granting of commissions, awards, pensions, stipends, scholarships, honorary professorships, and other privileges. “No patron was ever so generous to artists as he,” Goebbels remarked (80). As an example of his generosity, Spotts notes that Hitler personally financed the renovation of the residence and studio of a minor Austrian painter whose works he liked. In a similar instance, he paid for the renovation of the Munich Künstlerhaus and the accommodations of young painters living there. He also exempted artists from military service. A rarefied group of 21 exceptional artists were excused from all wartime obligations.

    A number of skilled painters emerged (Ludwig Dettmann, Werner Peiner, Adolf Ziegler), but Hitler’s hope that a painter of genius would arise from these efforts was ultimately left unfulfilled. Hitler regretted this and bemoaned the fact that few of the paintings exhibited at the House of German Art were exceptional. But this was a source of only temporary discouragement: “This nation has works of such enduring value in those spheres of art where we lack great master spirits today that for the time being we can be content with what we already possess in such spheres” (179).

    The Third Reich may have failed to produce any painters of genius, but it produced two sculptors of the first rank in Arno Breker and Josef Thorak. Other skilled sculptors included Fritz Klimsch, Josef Wackerle, and Kurt Schmid-Ehmen. Sculpture became the main attraction at the House of German Art.

    The most ambitious of Hitler’s initiatives on behalf of the arts was his plan to build a grand museum that would house what he considered the greatest art in the world. This was to be located in Linz (his hometown), which Hitler hoped would become a center of art and culture to rival cities like Vienna and Budapest.

    Hitler had begun contemplating this as early as the mid-1920s. His 1925 sketchbook contains a meticulously drawn design (reproduced in this book) for a proposed “National Gallery” in Berlin. The gallery would be divided into two sections of 28 and 30 rooms each. On the side of the floorplan, he listed a number of painters and specified where their paintings would be displayed. He even added an arrow indicating a path for visitors to follow.

    Hitler’s plan for the interior of the Linz museum was envisioned with a similar level of exactitude. A secretary recounts that Hitler often expounded on his vision for the museum and discussed matters such as the space allocated to each painting, the decor of the galleries (which would be representative of the time and place in which the paintings therein were created), and even the lighting.

    Hitler initially planned to exhibit only nineteenth-century German artists (such as Franz von Stuck, Wilhelm von Kaulbach, Hans Makart, Franz von Lenbach, Eduard Grützner, Carl Spitzweg). But after his state trip to Italy in 1938, he decided that the museum ought to house great works of Renaissance art as well. His tour of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence later inspired him to tell the German ambassador in Italy: “Florence is too beautiful a city to destroy. Do what you can to protect it: you have my permission and assistance” (118). (Hitler demonstrated a similar concern for his enemies as well: “To save the old city of culture, we limited our air attacks on Paris to the airfields on the periphery. . . . It would really have bothered me to attack a city like Laon with its cathedral . . . .” (118). The Allies, of course, were not nearly as thoughtful or merciful.)

    The museum was to be the central part of Hitler’s larger project to transform Linz into a city of culture. Located at the core of Linz would be a complex consisting of a library with over 250,000 volumes, an opera house and operetta house, a cinema, a concert hall, and a theatre. Hitler later envisioned more structures for Linz: a bridge, a hotel, a weapons museum, a planetarium, a technical university, a railway station, etc. The cover of this book depicts him contemplating a model of the city. He was obsessed with the model and spent many hours silently contemplating it.

    Hitler’s devotion to the visual arts was matched by his love for music, particularly opera. Apart from a few lapses in judgment (he loved Franz Lehár and did not like Brahms), Hitler had good taste. In addition to Wagner and Bruckner, he also liked Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Schumann, Beethoven, and Chopin. He attended hundreds of opera performances over the course of his life, and his knowledge of opera was said to be remarkable. His favorite Wagner operas were Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger (which he is said to have known by heart), and Lohengrin. His favorite opera scene was the finale of Götterdämmerung, which he considered “the summit of all opera” (235).

    Hitler also sketched stage sets for Wagner’s operas. With Benno von Arent, he designed several productions that he himself commissioned and financed out of his own pocket. The most grand of these was their production of Die Meistersinger, which was staged annually at Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies starting from 1935.

    Hitler became closely involved with the Bayreuth Circle. He met Winifred Wagner in 1923, and the two became close friends. He often visited the Wagner home in Bayreuth and spent time with the Wagner children. Hitler granted the festival both artistic independence (making Bayreuth one of the few cultural institutions that operated outside the purview of the state) and financial assistance.

    Most members of Hitler’s inner circle were actually hostile to Wagner and Bayreuth. Hitler did not think highly of their musical tastes. He once complained to a secretary, “When I go to a gala, I have to keep my eye on all the people who accompany me to make sure they do not go to sleep” (89).

    Spotts insists that Hitler’s obsession with Wagner’s operas was apolitical in nature and that Hitler was drawn to them on account of their music alone and not their plots. It is refreshing that he shuns the typical hysteria surrounding Wagner. But as a Wagner scholar himself, Spotts has an interest in downplaying the extent to which Hitler saw Wagner as an ideological precursor and drew political inspiration from his operas. The famous anecdote of Hitler being inspired by Rienzi as a young man, which Spotts believes is accurate, would appear to contradict his argument. As Hitler recounted to Speer in 1938, “Listening to this blessed music as a young man in the opera at Linz, I had the vision that I too must some day succeed in uniting the German empire and making it great once more” (227).

    It is true, though, that Hitler was impatient with party officials whose music taste was dictated solely by ideology. When he learned that some of them had banned operas such as Carmen, Tosca, and Lohengrin (and had tried to ban The Magic Flute), he was outraged and declared that this arose “from a primitive ideological vigilance that is insupportable” (275).

    Bruckner was another favorite of Hitler’s, though Goebbels observed that it was only in 1942 (five years after he was photographed beside the bust of Bruckner at Regensburg) that he began to appreciate his works. As a tribute to Bruckner, Hitler financed a center for Bruckner studies at St. Florian (where Bruckner worked as an organist), repaired the “Bruckner Organ,” and expanded the library wing at the St. Florian Monastery. His plans for Linz also included the construction of a monument in Bruckner’s honor.

    Hitler’s passion for opera also manifested in an obsession with opera house architecture. The earliest record of this interest dates back to when he entered a competition for the design of a new opera house in Linz at the age of 18. Hitler read several books on the subject and was said to have been familiar with the design of every major opera house in the world. A room in his bunker was filled with books on opera house architecture. “The bombing of an opera house pained him more than the destruction of whole residential quarters,” according to Speer (286).

    One quarter of the drawings in Hitler’s sketchbook were of opera houses that he planned to build. These would be located in smaller towns as well as large cities. Hitler thereby hoped to make opera more accessible to the public: “Opera belongs to the people and must therefore be available to the people” (283). In a similar vein, Hitler organized concerts in factories during wartime; the book includes a photo of Furtwängler conducting a lunchtime concert at a Berlin armaments factory in 1943.

    Hitler’s sketchbook also included detailed plans for museums, theatres, public buildings and stage designs. It is easy to see why professional architects were impressed by Hitler’s skill. Speer remarked that Hitler had the mind of an architect, with a near-photographic memory, an eye for detail, and a keen ability to envision floorplans as three-dimensional concepts.

    Indeed, Hitler’s sketches were the basis for most of Speer’s projects. Spotts argues that Speer’s role was more minor than is generally assumed. He quotes Fritz Wiedemann’s observation that “Speer himself was not much more than an assistant who carried out Hitler’s ideas” (342). Speer’s planned German Arch of Triumph, for example, was almost a copy of Hitler’s design for a triumphal arch.

    Hitler’s remark upon handing Speer his sketches for the triumphal arch is perhaps the most concise statement on the overlap between his artistic interests and his political ambitions: “I made these drawings ten years ago. I’ve always saved them because I never doubted that some day I would build these two edifices” (318). His political vision was effectively an extension of what he envisioned in his architectural sketches.

    Spotts also suggests that Hitler came up with the idea for Speer’s Cathedral of Light. This was a simple yet powerful visual effect that consisted of 130 flak searchlights aimed skyward, creating magnificent pillars of light that encircled audience members at the Nuremberg rallies. The famous torchlight processions were also Hitler’s idea.

    Spotts writes that, contrary to some accounts, Speer had no hand in the plan for Linz, which was Hitler’s imagining. Similarly, the Linz museum, though designed by Roderich Fick, was strongly influenced by Hitler’s own sketches, and the House of German Art, though designed by Paul Ludwig Troost, was “more Hitler than Troost” (344).

    Hitler’s designs were mainly inspired by ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The most notable example is the Volkshalle, which was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. This gargantuan granite dome was to be the pride of Germania. Its interior would boast a coffered ceiling resting atop marble pillars, as in the Pantheon, with three concentric tiers of seats reminiscent of the Colosseum (which also inspired the Congress Hall in Nuremberg). The building would be connected by a Roman-style cryptoporticus to Hitler’s palace.

    Spotts does not mention it, but another homage to classical architecture was the Zeppelin tribune in Nuremberg, which was modeled after the Pergamon Altar.

    Hitler was not entirely averse to Modernism when it came to architecture. He also admired skyscrapers and the technological prowess they represented, though he stated that such structures “must be sensibly integrated” into the surrounding environment (320).

    Spotts cites the Autobahn as an example of how Hitler combined technology with aesthetics and ideology. Hitler envisioned the Autobahn as a tribute to both the adventurous spirit of the Aryan race and the beauty of the German countryside. The aesthetic component was important, and detours were made to offer more scenic views even if it incurred additional construction costs. Great pains were taken during construction to avoid inflicting damage upon the environment. Hitler gave much thought to the question of reconciling technology with nature. Bridges, “a key element in the autobahn myth,” were designed to be both monumental and streamlined, modern and organic. The resulting structures are triumphs of modern architecture.

    The only shortcoming of this book is that its focus on Hitler limits it to those creative domains that most interested him (painting, music, and architecture). The book is a biography of Hitler refracted through his artistic interests rather than a general survey of art in the Third Reich. Film is barely mentioned at all, despite that it flourished during the Third Reich and was highly effective as an artistic medium through which National Socialist ideals/aesthetics were transmitted. Actors were listed on the Gottbegnadeten-Liste alongside composers, architects, etc. But this is a topic for another book.

    One facet of Hitler’s personality that is accentuated in this book is his obsession with detail and his willingness to go to any lengths to realize his vision. The best example of this the manner in which he approached his oratory. He wrote his own speeches and often rewrote them several times. Each gesture and each turn of phrase were painstakingly crafted and rehearsed. Nothing was left to chance. Hitler’s artistic bent also made him sensitive to minor considerations such as lighting and acoustics. This degree of meticulousness extended to the planning of party rallies, parades, etc.

    Another is his far-sightedness. Hitler knew that his plans would have required decades of labor and that many of them would not have been fully realized until long after his death. He was thinking centuries ahead. He was concerned not with achieving temporary security, but with creating a civilization that would last thousands of years. In this he failed, but the post-war triumph of ugliness makes his vision all the more appealing. his vision provides a blueprint with which others can succeed.

    This book can be recommended both as a highly objective and detailed account of Hitler’s artistic interests and as a study in how art can shape politics and influence the course of history. Read it for a glimpse of what can be achieved in the future.

    (Review Source)
  • Born-Again Paganism: Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring
    (”The Magic Flute” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    4,866 words The Criterion Collection’s recent release of a comprehensive Blu-ray collection of the cinema of Ingmar Bergman is an opportunity to re-assess the work of this greatest of Nordic filmmakers. Those who seen little of his work (or none at all) usually have the impression that Bergman’s oeuvre is dark and gloomy, filled with […]
    (Review Source)

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