Sunday, February 12, 2012

The fantasy and reality of the Fourth Reich

Ruthie Blum

The fantasy and reality of the Fourth Reich

My film buff son thinks I’m humorless when it comes to comedies about Nazis. He’s right. I’ve never found it funny when SS soldiers are portrayed as bumbling idiots, more to be pitied for their stupidity than feared for their evil.

I admit to being one of the very few people I know who loathed Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, for example. But, then, my tastes in this area never have been in sync with those of my peers or critics. The hit sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” from my youth did not tickle me any more than did Charlie Chaplin’s "The Great Dictator."

This is why there is little to no chance that I will run to see what promises to be the next low-budget cult movie to captivate audiences around the world, "Iron Sky." That it is a box-office favorite at the politically left-leaning Berlinale International Film Festival this week in Germany only adds to my aversion.
The film, which was shot in Finland and in Australia, stars German actress Julia Dietze. It is about a Nazi invasion of the world. Lest you be under the misconception that this is a dramatization of the actual Nazi invasion of the world that really took place, you may heave a sigh of relief. This one is about an imaginary Nazi plot to take over the Earth – not from Germany, mind you, where it historically originated, but from a military base on the dark side of the moon. Indeed, this year’s choice pick for the Berlinale’s top prize is a Finnish science-fiction black comedy (though, judging from the trailer,  it looks like a god-awful tragedy) in which human beings have to – gasp! – defeat Nazis or be killed by them.

(Credit: YouTube)
There’s a creative concept. How did nobody come up with it before?

To be fair to director Timo Vuorensola and producer Tero Kaukomaa, the film is only loosely based on the events of World War II – using real-life SS officer Hans Kammler’s purported scientific breakthroughs in the field of antigravity as the premise for the storyline.

The idea behind it is that a bunch of Nazis who escaped death or capture at the end of World War II fled to the Antarctic to work on a clandestine space program. In 1945, they ostensibly launched spaceships to the Schwarze Sonne (the "black sun"), a military base they established on the dark side of the moon. The purpose of this base was to develop an armada with which to retake the world – a mission they had been prevented from accomplishing the first time around … you know, thanks to the actual Allied forces.
Now, in the year 2018, the descendants of the original Nazis are going to finish the job that their ancestors started and achieve global – or in this case intergalactic – domination.

The Earth is saved at the last minute from the Fourth Reich aliens, when its inhabitants realize they must “change their priorities.”
As if a sci-fi comedy about space-age Nazis weren’t enough to turn one’s stomach, the fact that its buzz has already made it a campy commercial draw way before its release date in April is beyond nauseating. In fact, it is as telling as it is worrisome. Europeans are happy to be reassured that Nazism is a thing of the past or a science-fiction phenomenon from the future. Americans are happy to tell themselves that such abominations can’t actually happen again.

Meanwhile, the Fourth Reich is alive and well in the Middle East. It has a different name, but its objectives are the same and its methods for achieving them are no less brutal. Iran is not on the moon, though it’s certainly on the dark side; nor does its weaponry need computer-graphic enhancement for visual effects. Together with its allies and proxies, it intends to subjugate the planet Earth and impose on it the most radical Islamist interpretation of Sharia law there is.

This does not prevent the jet-setter film-festival crowd from looking the other way at best, and serving as apologists at worst.
Movie-going has always been a form of escapism, which is the main reason that viewers want happy endings. It may also explain why I can’t tolerate fun-filled fantasy films about Nazis. The story of WWII already had a happy ending. It is one that needs retelling not rewriting, especially now – in the actual year of 2012.

The current Fuhrer and his soldiers are not actors in shiny space-suits. And if they get their way, nobody will be going to the movies any time soon.

Contemplate that before lining up at theaters to see Iron Sky. It may be a comedy. But it is no laughing matter.

Ruthie Blum is a former senior editor and columnist at The Jerusalem Post. She is currently writing a book about the radicalization of the Middle East, to be published by RVP Press in the spring.