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The Goebbels Experiment

25 customer reviews

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(May 23, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

"Arguably the most gifted of Hitler’s 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 history’s most terrifying examples of the reach of propaganda, a tool with which Goebbels’s 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 society’s 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

Special Features

  • Film notes
  • Filmmaker biographies
  • World War II film collection preview

Product Details

  • Actors: Udo Samel, Kenneth Branagh, Heinrich Brüning, Winston Churchill, Engelbert Dollfuss
  • Directors: Lutz Hachmeister
  • Writers: Lutz Hachmeister, Michael Kloft
  • Producers: Lutz Hachmeister, Mark Samels, Nick Fraser, Sharon Grimberg, Thorsten Pollfuss
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English, German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: First Run Features
  • DVD Release Date: May 23, 2006
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000EULK1O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,415 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Goebbels Experiment" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 23, 2006
Format: DVD
This is an amazing film. Don't even know where to start.

- All you hear or watch are either documentaries or Goebbels own words. Of course, the facts can be used out of context etc, but still it's as close to truth as you can get.

- Quality of materials. We usually used to see WWII videos in black and white and it makes you feel disconneted from that time. Here they found some rare color films. It makes big difference!

- Feel the time. You here the sounds of that time, watch scenes from that time, listen to Goebbels own words. Looks like the authors were trying carefully to preserve that experience. The are not trying to give their own opinions or inject anything modern. So it's a very unspoiled view into pre WWII and WWII Germany.

- Great history lesson on propaganda, democracy etc. Some people would be probably surprised to realize that government got it's power in a democratic way by winning a series of elections and it had support from masses. That shows you the limits of democracy.

Overall, one of the best documentary films about that time released in the recent years!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Wilkening on April 5, 2007
Format: DVD
I had never heard of this movie until I saw it in the documentary section at my local Blockbuster the other day. Having long possessed an interest in the Nazi regime, as well as in the ways in which states use propaganda to boster their legitimacy, I decided to pick it up.

The documentary is structured in a rather unique way. It consists of Kenneth Branagh, the narrator, reading excerpts from Goebbels' diary while showing film footage from Goebbels' personal life as well as of the Nazis' rise to power. There is no outside commentary; the entire film is shown from Dr. Goebbels' own perspective. Because of this, the film doesn't provide a lot of background on the political events leading to the Nazis' usurpation of power and the onset of WWII. I think that a person could take away a lot from this movie even without knowing this historical background, but at least a basic knowledge of the Third Reich would definitely augment the experience.

I haven't actually read Goebbel's diaries, but I found the film entrancing. One of the more remarkable aspects of the film was the way in which it revealed Dr. Goebbels' internal contradictions. On the one hand, he was obviously a vile anti-Semite and a vulgar, unabashed proponent of German nationalism. On the other hand, at various times he reveals himself to be a highly cultured individual. His appreciation of cinema and the fine arts, however, is clearly due to his belief that these cultural media could be exploited to advance a particular political agenda, and this is obviously something that Dr. Goebbels' pursued rather successfully.

Without giving away the ending, I can say that the ending of the documentary contained some very disturbing images. I already knew before watching it what the fate of Dr.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By P.K. Ryan on March 24, 2007
Format: DVD
'The Goebbels Experiment' is a magnificent documentary about the infamous Third Reich Propaganda Minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Kenneth Branaugh is the narrator but where this differs from most documentaries is that instead of using a typical commentary approach, Branaugh solely reads excerpts of Dr. Goebbels extensive diary collection while images and film footage of the Minister roll in the background. This is a unique approach in the fact that it lets Dr. Goebbels essentially speak for himself and it succeeds in juxtaposing his private thoughts and feelings with his public persona. The diary entries begin circa 1924 when Goebbels was basically a discontented nobody, working a low-level job at a bank and oft complaining of depression and lack of purpose in life. He visibly comes to life after he becomes involved in the Nazi party and comes across as a rather happy-go-lucky guy. His admiration of Hitler is evident-"I love him" he says at one point-and the footage of these early party days reveal him as a constantly smiling and rather charming fellow. As the film-and the movement-proceeds, we see Goebbels gradually evolve into the bitter, and cynical propaganda master that he is remembered as. With that said, he seems to have maintained an unwavering loyalty to his Fuhrer and the movement up until the moment of his death.

There is some fantastic black and white film footage of Nazi party rallies and "behind the scenes" events that I have never seen before. Also utilized are a number of nice photographs of Goebbels' and company throughout his life. While I don't think this documentary is for everybody-my wife rolled her eyes when I told her what I was watching-anybody interested in the Third Reich or history in general will no doubt enjoy this film immensely. It is definitely one of the best documentaries on a historical figure that I have seen and it certainly gave me much insight into the mind of one of the most notorious men of the twentieth century.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on June 7, 2008
Format: DVD
This is an well conceived and executed film. The vintage footage from the Weimar Republic and Third Reich era is gripping, truly giving one, as an earlier reviewer puts it, a "feel" for the period. The selections from Goebbels' diaries focus on many of the pertinent hallmarks in his life, although it's puzzling that Goebbels' reflections on the concentration and death camps, the Americans (and especially FDR), and Aryanism are completely absent from the film's narrative.

What's especially intriguing about the film is the ambiguity surrounding its title. Just what was the Goebbels experiment? It seems to me that two answers are possible. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the "experiment" of creating a huge propaganda machine capable of manipulating public opinion. This, of course, is what Goebbels did as Minister of Propaganda. Although he initially resisted the assignment, resentfully believing that he was being side-lined, Goebbels was in pretty much complete control of German radio, propaganda, film, press, and theatre by 1934. He insisted that effective propaganda must be the right mixture of entertainment and information, and recognized the power of dramatic film in manipulating the public (the production of "Kolberg" towards the end of the war is a good example of such manipulation). As he said, "German cinema must conquer the world"--that is, cinema was an effective weapon if properly wielded.

So in one sense, Goebbels' experiment was testing the limits of public credulity, and it can scarcely be denied that his successful tactics changed the relationship between governments and media. But at another level, the Goebbels experiment refers to Goebbel's self-creation. Perhaps his greatest propaganda coup was himself.
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