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Harlan - In the Shadow of Jew Suss

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Though almost forgotten today, Veit Harlan was one of Nazi Germany's most notorious filmmakers. Millions all across occupied Europe saw his films, the most infamous of which was the horrific anti-Semitic propaganda film Jew Süss - required viewing for all SS members. An unrepentant and blindly obsessive craftsman, no figure - save for Leni Riefenstahl - is as closely associated with the cinema of the Holocaust years as that of Joseph Goebbels' top director (Quentin Tarantino used Harlan's 1945 epic Kolberg as the basis for Inglourious Basterds' pivotal film-within-a-film Stolz der Nation.) Harlan was also the only artist from the Nazi era to be charged with war crimes.

With never-before-seen archival footage, unearthed film excerpts, rare home movies and new interviews, Harlan is a searing portrait of the controversial filmmaker and an eye-opening examination of World War II film history. But it also shows how Veit Harlan's family - especially the youngest generation - struggles with the dark myth of his artistic immorality. It's the story of a German family from the Third Reich to the present, one that is marked by reckoning, denial and liberation.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
- New anamorphic transfer, created from hi-def elements
- Q&A with Veit Harlan's granddaughter, journalist and critic Jessica Jacoby
- Video interview with acclaimed German writer and filmmaker Alexander Kluge (Germany in Autumn) about Harlan's film career

Review

Deeply fascinating, unexpectedly potent! --Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

A fearfully fascinating, disturbing picture! --Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

Moeller transforms what might have been mere cultural scholarship into something larger - a microcosm of postwar German guilt and redemption. --Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Jan Harlan, Veit Harlan, Thomas Harlan
  • Directors: Felix Moeller
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Black & White, Color, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: French, Italian
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: November 23, 2010
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003XZF2KC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,433 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on January 24, 2013
Format: DVD
More than even Leni Riefenstahl Veit Harlan served as the Third Reich's premier film director.

From his 1940 Jud Suss to his 1944 Kolberg Harlan produced movies that essentially tried to tell the German people about how they should feel and what they should be doing as the Reich arched through its war years.

For its part this documentary narrows its focus mostly to Harlan's surviving children and grandchildren through whom it tries to deal with the question of just how they should feel about being associated with such an infamous person as Veit Harlan.

For those unaware of it the 1940 Jud Suss was both the Reich's take on the story of one Jud Suss Oppenheimer and the 1934 American movie Power (starring Conrad Veidt) which told a decidedly different version of the tale. A real person, the historical Oppenheimer served King Karl Alexander at the court of Wurtenberg (one of the German mini states that existed prior to their unification in 1871). While it seems doubtless that the historical Oppenheimer had an appreciation for the finer things in life as a historical character there's also no serious question about his genuine service to his King. Those points were brought out in the American film Power.

The bad qualities of course would be brought out in Jud Suss, the Reich film (directed by Harlan). Starring Ferdinand Marian Harlan's Jud Suss was not so much a heonist as a monster who turned everything into his pleasure, ultimately including even the German maiden (played by Harlan's real life wife Kristina Soderbaum) put in the film specifically to inflame anti semitic prejudices against comingling between Jews and non Jews. Not surprisingly some 20 million people in the occupied Reich saw Jud Suss.
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The story of Veit Harlan shares some frontiers with other highly driven, young men who actively participated in the fortunes of Nazi Germany, men such as Albert Speer and Wernherr von Braun. Indeed, several historians have argued persuasively that the "driving engines", the "executors" of the Third Reich were a group of men (like Harlan) from the generation born in roughly the first decade of the 20th century. There is some truth in this. It would have been interesting to place Harlan's life in this broader historical context partly because this addresses the compelling question of how people who were not rabid Nazis and were ostensibly "normal" politically could become willing participants in the regime.

But this is not the conventional documentary about a high-profile figure in Nazi Germany. Indeed, this documentary is only indirectly about Veit Harlan. Really, it is much more about how Harlan's children, grandchildren, and niece (Stanley Kubrick's wife) have come to terms with his active participation in and contributions to the Third Reich. I will admit that at first I was somewhat disappointed about this focus, but by the time the documentary ended, I had found it a captivating and provocative story. The story of the son Thomas Harlan is particularly fascinating and inspiring, and his comments during the documentary are without question the most compelling, the most insightful, but also the most profoundly MULTIFACETED. There is a tension in this story, for his half siblings, though renouncing Veit Harlan's work, clearly condemn Thomas for filial disloyalty to the father.
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Format: DVD
This is a very long and intimate documentary interspersed with present day interviews in subtitled German. It traces the career of a a talented man who directed an infamous and incendiary propaganda film at the behest of his national socialist masters.

The essestial conflict embedded in this bioppic is that Harlan never once acknowedeged any moral culpabilty--insisting to the end that his film was produced under duress. The impact of this disavowal on his modern day descendants is subsqeuently dealt with in detail.

Although I gave this film a 5-Star rating, I did so with the caveat that it will not likely appeal to a mainstream audience. Only those with some interest in --or knowledge of--the period will be receptive. As as added thought, it would be have useful to have the propragnanda film itelf included as a extra in this DVD. But alas, that was not the case.
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Fascinating documentary. Great idea if Kubrick had filmed his idea how movies were decided upon step by step in Goebbels regime. Especially moving the thoughts of Harlan's granddaughter, Ms. Jacoby. A friend was close to another Nazi era film person, Marianne Hoppe. Interesting the similiarities in the thoughts of Harlan and Hoppe, and the reactions of family over the years.
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A powerful account of the post war views of Nazi artists, more interesting are the excuses and the rationalization of the children, on the one hand condemning the movie but on the other justifying their father. This movie serves as a wonderful teaching tool not only about Nazi cinema but also the reaction of post war Germans.
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