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Distributed by Kino Lorber Edu, 333 West 39 St, Suite 503, New York, NY 10018; 212-629-6880
Produced by Sanford Lieberson and David Puttnam
Directed by Philippe Mora
DVD, color and b&w, 95 min.
Sr. High - General Adult
Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Film Studies

Reviewed by Rue McKenzie, University of South Florida, Tampa

Recommended with reservations   
Date Entered: 9/8/2011

The film Swastika created great controversy when it was first produced, premiering at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. The screening had to be stopped when audience members became agitated and violent. The film was seen as pro-Nazi by some, anti-German by others. It was subsequently banned in Germany for 37 years. Combining segments of Nazi propaganda films with home movies shot by Eva Braun, Swastika displays Hitler’s ferocious rise to power interspersed with his private life, as he socializes with colleagues, plays with children, and enjoys animals. The propaganda footage is striking given the size and scope of Hitler’s followers and the careful depiction of a man as both powerful commander and thoughtful leader, while the more private footage is oddly uncomfortable in its banality. But that is the point being made by the filmmakers. Showing Hitler as a man, a human, in various situations from private to public is meant to challenge the viewers’ notions of the uniqueness and rarity of such deep-seated malevolence.

While the re-released film has been met with critical support, in this reviewer’s opinion the DVD release provides the added features necessary to truly appreciate the work. Interviews with the filmmakers reveal the documentary processes involved in discovering the various film segments included, the importance of Eva Braun’s use of color film, and the very interesting use of lip-readers to decipher the home movie conversations so that subtitles could be added. An interview with Albert Speer and expanded discussions regarding film-making in Nazi Germany provide additional background and perspectives.

Ultimately, the main points that continue to be relevant are that demonizing Hitler into a power outside the realm of humanity mistakenly belies the human potential for malevolent intent at such a deep level in the past, present, and in the future.

The DVD release of Swastika is recommended for general viewing as well as courses in history, holocaust/genocide studies, and film studies.

Recommended with reservations, noting that the film doesn’t stand alone as well as it does when viewed in conjunction with the DVD special features.