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Swing Kids VHS
American Swing music in Nazi germany
This strange movie with a niche subject--jazz-loving, dance-loving German kids persecuted by Hitler's men--almost works, thanks to a good cast who seem devoted to the unusual story line. Director Thomas Carter doesn't bring the necessary stylistic oomph to the musical sequences, something that might have pushed the whole production to another, more interesting level of Hollywood dream. Kenneth Branagh makes a particularly effective, wolf-in-sheep's-clothing Nazi official. --Tom Keogh
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"If the Swing Kids had evolved into an underground movement dedicated to the overthrow of Nazism, we might be onto something here. But no..........The screenplay is so murky, indeed, that I was never sure whether the Kids hated the Hitler Youth lads because they were Nazis, or simply because they didn't swing"
With all due respect to Mr. Ebert, I have to say this totally misses the point.
This film is set in Hamburg in 1939. At this point the Second World War hadn't started yet. Though there were stories of abuses that had taken place under the new regime, the censoring of the media prevented any clear knowledge of what was going on. This film isn't really about the war or the holocaust. It's about something much more subtle but just as deadly. It's about how a government gains psychological control over it's citizens.
Just after the opening of the film there's a very insightful scene where Peter comes home and finds his mother being threatened and slapped by a brown shirt. Peter, very bravely, intervenes. A moment later there's a knock at the door and a smooth, kind-hearted gestapo agent turns up. He dismisses the brown shirt and tends to her wounds. It's the classic "good cop/bad cop" routine. And the frightening thing is that IT WORKS! IT WORKS ALMOST EVERY TIME! It works most effectively when people aren't aware of it, and that's what happens in this scene. The same device is employed throughout the rest of the film. Emil (sp?) who was a Swing Kid himself brutally strikes one of his former friends and breaks his fingers. Thomas, who is gifted with some physical brawn and courage, confronts Emil in the boxing ring as retribution. But later in the film Emil expresses his admiration for Thomas and befriends him as a fellow Hitler Youth. Even in the beginning of the film, it becomes clear that the gestapo agent probably isn't a trustworthy person, but when he makes kind overtures to a family in need (smoothing things over with the police, providing food and physical comforts to them) he's welcomed as a hero, a savior.
As the film progresses and Peter and Thomas become involved with the Hitler Youth, there are scenes of the boys being indoctrinated with propaganda films about the jews and other "unsuitable" minorities. The footage is disturbingly accurate and shows what pressure the boys must have been under to "go along with the program". They weren't allowed to speak openly in disagreement.
The film serves as a sobering warning. There are at least a few lessons that I take from it:
1) We should be skeptical of the media, and I mean all forms of media, up to and including the newspapers, radio, internet and cable "news" services. This is true especially now. The days of objective news reporting are over. The so-called "news" services are constantly editorializing and slanting the news to fit their own political persuasion. We need to be cautious of everything we hear and read.
2) We need to be more protective of the first amendment (ie. free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble). This is more difficult than we think. It means hearing things that we may not want to hear. It means letting other people speak when we may not want them to. But we have to hold the line on it. The loss or abridgement of first amendment freedoms is the first step towards totalitarian government.
3) Free elections and limited terms of office need to be maintained. I know this is difficult. I know that it makes for a slow, cumbersome and messy way of running a state, but I think it's essential if we're going to maintain a free society.
These are just a few of the lessons but I'm sure there are others. I realize the dialogue in the film seems rather stunted and juvenile, but I think it has to be emphasized that this is how teenagers talk. They're just beginning to come to terms with the world that they're living in, and sometimes they struggle to put it into words. This makes Peter's revelation toward the end of the film all the more dramatic. "They're evil Thomas!" With unusual courage he's finally able to express the underlying theme of the film.
Just as a side note, I know the film is titled "Swing Kids". Swing and jazz music are two of my favorite forms of popular music and this film is definitely a tribute to those forms. The truth is that these "Kids" probably didn't fully understand the systemic evil that they were rebelling against but they rebelled in the only way they felt they could, through music. This film is quite thought-provoking and I highly recommend it.
Personal I did experienced this similar in East Germany , we the youth were misguided
and mislead, forbidden any kind of music and dance coming from the western world.
This story is true, and perhaps could teach to some young people to pay attention with
Whom you associate .
Almost universally canned by critics, this film touches on a difficult subject - the dilemma of living in peacetime Nazi Germany. Its main characters are teenagers, who view the Nazis as cliche-spouting ingrates, but are swamped at every turn with the propaganda and seeming omnipotence of the evil regime.
This is where professional film critics seem to have an issue. How dare, they seem to ask, a film present ordinary life in Nazi Germany as bearable? How dare the young characters seem more interested in romance, education and "making the best of things" than - presumably - plotting Hitler's downfall? Surely they should all rise up in mutinous glory against Hitler in reel 2, or something like that.
What makes this flawed (and at times poorly edited) film unique is it refuses to wander into such obvious territory. It assumes we are intelligent enough to know the Nazis were evil and, beyond the setting of the film (1938/9) would go on to engineer the Holocaust. It doesn't need to remind us of that.
What it does remind us of is how difficult it is to live in a country slowly descending into an hysteria of racist/religious paranoia. And what it's like to be a young adult at the time.
Unique, occasionally corny, occasionally brilliant. Brave and great. The most underrated and misjudged film of all time by a long way, by those who judge any film which does not yell "NAZI = EVIL" at 100 decibels for 100 minuts as somehow favouring them.