Posted : 4 years, 5 months ago on 2 July 2011 05:09
(A review of
''The stars are neither friendly or hostile. But it stands written they will obey the one who attempts.''
In this historical costume melodrama, a conniving, ambitious Jewish businessman, Suess Oppenheimer, snares a post as treasurer to the Duke of Wurttemburg by showering the corrupt duke with treasure and promises of even greater riches.
: Joseph Süß Oppenheimer
I continue to hold a penchant for reviewing highly controversial films, and what could be more controversial than Veit Harlan's period piece Jud Süß
released during the year 1940 in National Socialist Germany; Capturing a certain story about a Duke and a Jewish advisor from 1733. It is a propaganda educational piece which features the fundamental strains against the Jewish race by telling History from a National Socialist perspective. Veit Harlan has actually made a film which is at quite a high quality in terms of cinematography, music, sound and acting. Perhaps not quite as well known as expressionist pieces by Fritz Lang from the weimar period but it certainly gives a considerable amount of film makers a run for their money.
was said to have been sent to SS guards and Police by Henrich Himmler, head of the SS. It was used for learning purposes regarding Jews. While Dr Goebbels, minister for propaganda, whom commissioned the piece, viewed the premiere with Veit Harlan. Goebbels was extremely pleased with the film.
The story is adapted and partially based on a 1827 novella by Wilhelm Hauff. It concerns the real life figure Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, a financial advisor for Karl Alexander, Duke of Württemberg. Obviously the film has its artistic license and alters the facts to suit the means. It is to show the enemy in its material form and to give the supposed threat a face using a story and a reshaping of history.
A German audience attending a viewing of the piece in 1940 would have recognized the several basic Nazi stereotypes regarding how Jews and Jewish culture are portrayed: There is the early scene in which Oppenheimer is shown to possess a fortune in jewels and jewelry. In another, he tells an innocent German girl that his home is "the world"
(reflecting the Nazi stereotype of the Jews as rootless wanderers in contrast to the Germans' love of their German homeland). Several dialogues exchanged between Jewish characters perpetuate the Nazi line that Jews are inherently hostile to non-Jews. There is also Oppenheimer's role as a purveyor of women for the Duke, and his relentless pursuit of an "Aryan"
woman for sexual purposes, even after she resists his first attempt to seduce her.
You will notice the broad cartoonish stereotypes of the Jewish characters and the preternaturally noble characters of their German counterparts.
Notice that several of the German characters, Faber in particular, are unfailingly rude to Oppenheimer from the moment he arrives in Wurttemberg simply because he is Jewish — and before he gives them any reason to do so. They will probably also note that it is the Duke's vanity, greed, and weak moral character that makes it possible for Oppenheimer to do everything that he is seen doing in the film. The Duke also seems to be as much to blame as Oppenheimer — at least in translation.
It is a shame the film is so notorious and controversial because it actually results in being a high quality rendition in terms of execution, music, story and even acting. That is to say Ferdinand Marian, playing the lead antagonist Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, gives such a performance that it is truly captivating to watch and shows his ability and versatility as an actor.
Kristina Söderbaum as Dorthea Sturm, the ill-fated heroine of the piece, also dazzles the screen with her beauty and strength.
The film cannot help but raise unintentional laughs when it comes to Werner Krauss playing multiple roles, one being Rabbi Loew, whom actually could have easily served as the inspiration for the Emperor in Star Wars
and the other being Levy Oppenheimer's helper(A scheming satanic type with scary eyes).
The Jews are depicted as being materialistic, dirty, animalistic, deceptive and to a degree satanic, benign and evil. Everything that is shown in the film will certainly be considered strange or alien to behold by many today. Perhaps some element or strain of truth ultimately shines through all the hate and confusion; Anyone who has has ever read Mein Kamph
will instantly recognize many elements in this film stated against the Jews, essentially classed as sworn blood enemies of National Socialist Germany. Jud Süß
is a warning and reminder that if you let one Jew in, you let them all in and that all their personal interests and planning results in draining the land of milk and honey, of women and materials, of power and control. The meaning: All wealth and power is made for the glory and seizure of Israel. So the film shows all Jews as untrustworthy and completely without empathy or goodness.
We see a foreign entity (The Jews) entering Wurttemburg after the ban is lifted by the devious Oppenheimer, we see a number of examples which show gambling and materialism, the herding of young German girls by Oppenheimer for the Duke's appetites, and the contrasts between Jewish rituals and German traditions.
They simply cannot be compared. Or so the film would have us believe.
We even get to see Oppenheimer and his lackey completely demolish half a house belonging to a blacksmith. Why? Because the house was in the way of the road which Oppenhimer was put in charge of maintaining. The blacksmith is later hanged for hitting the coach of Oppenheimer as he passes. It is a crazy addition to the story but it shows an example of Oppenheimer's malice and his cruel nature in the film.
is the epic propaganda piece, and box office hit of 1940 which was enjoyed by millions in Germany, Austria and Europe, but of course mostly for benign and anti-semitic reasons.
It is revisionism and the clever warping of history to help fuel and fire hatred towards an entire race of people.
There is a battle throughout the film between the soul of a country, the personal ambitions and cunning of Oppenheimer and a Duke seduced by his every word and promise.
Disregarding any political or doctrine attached, the story and film, are successfully executed. It would seem to me this would have been the definitive classic for the Germans, in the future days of the Reich, if they had been victorious in the War to show the evil of the Jews throughout history, in a mirrored way that Casablanca
in 1942 tells the evil of the Nazis; It was an example classic for the Allies a few years later which is still renowned and celebrated by film lovers today. This was said to have offended many Germans at the time... In the same way this piece Jud Süß
would offend any politically correct thinking individual, with its discrimination and Aryan values.
I would say on a fundamental set of levels; The racial implications of purity and alien forces threatening to pollute the land... The film offends or is appreciated depending upon personal morals, ideals or your chosen set of ethics. As the offensive pattern will be towards the effort that the makers and storytelling takes to paint a villainous picture of the Jewish race, in a very black and white way. The stereotypical simplicity of showing good and evil. So Jud Süß
asks anyone watching those important questions: What is right or wrong?
What is decent or indecent? Offensive or paramount? Your answers will revolve around your personal preferences and feelings towards the piece.
is an important work for viewing because it allows the viewer to grasp clever propaganda techniques via film-making and storytelling, to delve into the mind-set regarding the early 1940s era within Germany(Including other parts of Europe) and also to grasp the National Socialist stance towards their eternal enemy; The Jew. It is certainly an enthralling propaganda period piece with many subliminal questions and answers attached, with that affirmed imagery of defiance, drama, tragedy and death.
''I already see the milk and honey flowing for Israel. Should I not already cross the Jordan through the will of the Lord? Isn't that his will?''
''You're interpreting His words as it suits you.''