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Reichorchester [Blu-ray]

13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The Berlin Philharmonic chose to mark their 125th anniversary year by highlighting a previously unknown chapter in its history - the years from 1933 to 1945. The film brings to life, in a manner as fascinating as it is sensitive, this chapter in the history of Germany and its capital Berlin, and explores the question: How does one tread the fine line between independence and individual responsibility?


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Classical, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: German (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Arthaus
  • DVD Release Date: October 30, 2012
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00925T91U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,388 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Jim Shine on February 24, 2008
Format: DVD
"Then all of a sudden the portrait of Mendelssohn vanished". Thus begins the Berlin Philharmonic's 12-year period under Nazi control. The Philharmonic had been owned by the musicians, but in early 1934 Josef Goebbels' propaganda ministry took over and the orchestra became part of the effort to promote the superiority of German culture. But as this fine documentary makes clear, it was never a "Nazi orchestra". There were a handful of committed Nazis who intimidated their colleagues, and the 4 Jewish members soon emigrated. As to the rest, some eventually joined the Nazi party, whether out of careerism or self-preservation, while the rest made sure not to rock the boat. And there were good reasons not to, aside from the political threat - they were, after all, the elite Berlin Philharmonic, with Furtwangler as their conductor; who would want to give that up? When war broke out, the musicians were deemed essential in their propaganda role, and none was obliged to enter military service, even up to the very end.
The story is told through the testimony of the last 2 surviving musicians, violinist Hans Bastiaan and double-bassist Erich Hartmann, and the sons and daughters of various others. Aside from the interviews there is footage of the orchestra in action, which can at times make very uncomfortable viewing - it's hard to enjoy Beethoven's 9th when the concert hall is decorated with swastikas and people such as Himmler are in the audience. What makes the film so good is the clearly focused and essentially dispassionate tone taken by director Enrique Sanchez Lansch. This is solely about the orchestra - the horrors of the war are seen only in the context of what the musicians experienced.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Book Reviewer on May 3, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I can only add my words of praise to everyone else. This documentary is a superb telling of the Berlin Philharmonic during the Third Reich. It doesn't gloss over, it doesn't condemn - it simply tells you what it was like and allows you to make your own decisions. I learned a great deal from this documentary that I hadn't realized before.

I do confess, however, to curiosity over why there is NO mention of von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic during the Third Reich. Of course, he wasn't the principal conductor - that was Furtwangler - but Karajan WAS a guest conductor during that period, plus, he was Goring's protege, Hitler had named him State Conductor, etc. It's simply curious that he was totally absent - they mentioned other guest conductors, etc., but never him. Oh, well, no matter. Even without him, this was a superb documentary which I enjoyed immensely and learned a great deal from.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Dean R. Brierly on April 6, 2008
Format: DVD
This documentary by Enrique Sánchez Lansch focuses on a fascinating and under-examined historical subject--how the Berlin Philharmonic, Germany's preeminent orchestra, adapted itself to the political and cultural realities under the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945. The orchestra, known for its brilliant musicianship under the legendary conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, had to toe the party line under Hitler's rule, purging its Jewish members (four of the musicians were forced to leave) and allowing itself to be used for propaganda purposes in Germany and on foreign tours. Archival footage shows the orchestra playing at Nazi party conferences, before and after speeches by Hitler and Goebbels, and during the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin under the grim, watchful eyes of the military and political elite. In return for its cooperation, the Philharmonic was granted a number of special privileges. Its members were exempt from military service and enjoyed a higher standard of living than the general population, even during the last, desperate days of World War II. The musicians knew the political score, but didn't protest for fear of losing their special status--not to mention their freedom. Running throughout the film is the question of individual and collective moral responsibility, but Lansch wisely lets the viewer decide to what degree the Philharmonic musicians compromised themselves. Lansch was able to interview two surviving members from the orchestra's pre-1945 period, and both address this issue in guarded fashion. According to Hans Bastiaan, the musicians were like "children" when it came to their political thinking, while Erich Hartmann says, "We were only doing our jobs.Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Michael O'Hanlon on September 22, 2011
Format: DVD
This 2008 documentary is a masterpiece. You'll forget the world and its petty concerns for its duration. Its beginning will suck the air out of your lungs like a firestorm: accompanied by the transition into the Finale of the Beethoven Fifth (presumably it is the Furtwangler '43 performance Beethoven - Symphonies 5 & 7) cellist Erich Hartman (Berlin Philharmonic, Class of 1943) returns to the site of the Old Philharmonie (now a hideous, bunker-like row of apartments) while Hans Bastiaan (Berlin Philharmonic, Class of 1934) visits the 1936 Olympic Village (still in situ and ghostly at that - the wall-murals bring to mind the Palace of Ashurbanipal). Thereafter, the wider experience of the Berlin Philharmonic under the Third Reich is explored, both through the testimony of survivors and the children of key personnel, be they Jewish or otherwise. One can only hope that Syzmon Goldberg was interviewed before his death in 1991.

There is that Chinese adage: may you live in interesting times. Well, these guys can bear testimony to its power.

The most haunting scene of all is the footage of the cannon-fodder: the teenagers, wounded soldiers (yes, Waffen SS included) and old men in 1945 listening to the slow movement of the Beethoven Fifth. It is a good thing that the scene is not in colour as the mere sight of their eyes in the full panorama would surely turn one to stone like Medusa. Some of them had been blinded. Others have been blasted by shrapnel. Destiny is such a despot; one can sense these poor devils are trying to immerse themselves in this "imperishable music" (Bastiaan's words) in preparation for the Day of Reckoning.
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Reichorchester [Blu-ray]
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