"Arguably the most gifted of Hitlers henchmen, Joseph Goebbels was an enigmatic genius whose successful manipulation of mass political opinion was unprecedented. His rise to power, and that of the Nazi Party itself, will forever stand as one of historys most terrifying examples of the reach of propaganda, a tool with which Goebbelss name is virtually synonymous. In their fascinating documentary, the filmmakers provide a rare and chilling glimpse into a brilliant but toxic mind. Rejecting commentary, they allow Goebbels to speak for himself (in the voice of Kenneth Branagh), via the extensive diaries that he kept from 1924 to1945. Rare clips from German film and television archives illustrate the readings. At a time when much of our news and entertainment media is controlled by a handful of corporations, The Goebbels Experiment is a cautionary reminder that equal access to the machinery of ideas may be societys most critical goal."
The rise and fall of the Third Reich is chronicled on an intimately personal scale in The Goebbels Experiment
, an essential addition to the vast legacy of Nazi-related documentaries. Like no other film before it, this remarkable experiment in archival biography combines two fascinating elements: rare and extensive archival footage and dramatic readings (by renowned British actor Kenneth Branagh) from the personal diaries that Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels kept from 1924 until his suicide in 1945. The net effect is unexpectedly striking: As Hitler's Nazi Party gained social and political momentum in the late 1920s and early '30s, Goebbels' daily life was so thoroughly covered by newsreel cameras, home movies, and Third Reich historians that there is enough existing footage of him to match (or at least approximate) nearly every event mentioned in his diaries.
From Goebbels' growing influence as an influential orator to his surprisingly affectionate family life, the meticulously edited footage serves as both point and counterpoint to Goebbels' diaries, revealing a paranoid intellectual capable of breathtaking, if not outright schizoid, shifts from one train of thought to another. A perceptive observer of culture (especially the art of motion pictures), he both loved Hitler and felt repeatedly betrayed by the Fuhrer's perceived offenses against him. Prone to chronic bouts of depression, Goebbels found purpose in his unprecedented orchestration of epic-scale propaganda, but his inner demons haunted him until the very end, when it became obvious that the Nazis had completely lost their power. The final images of Goebbels' partially burned body (along with those of his wife and six children) serve as a chilling reminder that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Having never found a satisfying balance between his personal and professional lives as a top-ranking Nazi, Goebbels' fate seems almost predetermined. As a masterful assembly of archival materials, The Goebbels Experiment is not to be missed. --Jeff Shannon