Our Hitler: A Film from Germany

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4 out of 5 stars
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Photograph: Facets

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

As luck would have it, the greatest and deepest film ever made about Adolf Hitler also turns out to be about the impossibility of making a film about the Führer. Hans-Jurgen Syberberg’s seven-and-a-half-hour 1978 masterpiece is certainly not a fiction film, but neither is it a documentary. Syberberg uses a variety of media (music, theater, photography, archival recordings, actors, puppetry, etc.) to present a series of ruminations and monologues on what Hitler represented to the German people and what he means to this day. Among Syberberg’s many notions is the idea that Hitler was, in some senses, the most extreme manifestation of a mythic German, and possibly even pan-European, soul—as much a monster out of the West’s worst nightmares as the diseased embodiment of its most heroic delusions.

Needless to say, Our Hitler is not an easy film to absorb theatrically, which makes the long-overdue DVD release of this endlessly fascinating work that much more welcome. Though much of the “action” of the film is played out on what appears to be a soundstage, and though much of it consists of people addressing the camera, Syberberg’s style is never stagy: His skill at layering sound, densely packing his frame and moving his camera transfixes the viewer. (A soundtrack laden with Wagner helps, too.) You don’t always know what’s happening in Our Hitler, but it’s hard to take your eyes away from it.

—Bilge Ebiri

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