9.09.2004

Hitler and Hell

Apologies for the silence. Discussing a new kind of SF elsewhere. Intelligent discussion with bright folk.

***

I finally watched Hellboy which stars Ron Perlman, who also acted in one of my favorite SF films, a French film called The City of Lost Children.

Hellboy strikes my soft spot: superhero films. They're my soap operas, my bon bons, my guilty pleasure. The DVD has some cool extras, too, including background behind characters and objects from the original Hellboy comics (or sequential art) as well as animated shorts, the first written by Dr. Seuss: Gerald McBoing Boing, the boy who cannot speak but only makes noises. The best of the series for me was when McBoing Boing is abducted to the Planet Moo, which of course assumes all earthlings speak with boings and aroogas.

My complaints about Hellboy would have been minor--not enough different monsters (come on, Hell, you can come up with more than a red monkey boy, large squid, and an overabundance of hell hounds); of all the monsters from hell only the good guy, the red monkey boy, is impervious to fire, etc.--except, as chance would have it, I watched another movie next to it: Blindspot: Hitler's Secretary. Hellboy does the usual demonizing of the Nazi party that we have all grown accustomed to, but the Nazi "reality" (perhaps "delusion" might be a better term) marred the literal demonizing of the Nazis.

There are two perspectives on demonizing: 1) demonizing allows us to say that there are times when moral ambiguity ought not to be allowed, 2) demonizing obscures the fact that we could all become "demons." I'm not sure which is best although I'd probably lean more toward the latter, more realistic perspective.

Traudl Junge was Hitler's Secretary for most of the war, up until Hitler's suicide. Junge is incredibly forthright about her feelings toward her employer, whom she saw at the time as a father figure. She expresses verbal misgivings about working for the man, but it is not until she comes upon the final days of the bunker that her sixty-year-old emotions break through: when the fate of children of loyal Nazis is sealed by the parents fearful of what the new order in Germany might bring. Hitler apparently had promulgated the fear that the Russian victors would castrate the men and rape the women.

Every moment is fascinating, but not terribly enthralling to watch the mostly expressionless face (a few pictures of the bunker and characters mentioned, especially Junge as a young lady, would have made a nice relief) until Junge approaches the final days of Nazism. The only variety the film gives is using a technique similar to the documentary on Jacques Derrida, filming Derrida watch and comment on himself in the documentary.

But only occassionally does this technique here provide insight as Junge thinks to mention new material she had not thought to say in the earlier interview. Her face is still expressionless, spiced only with a puff on a cigarette. The emotional peak occurs at the end as we learn that only years after the war when she saw a memorial for a girl her own age who was killed for standing up to Hitler, did she realize the youth was no excuse for naïvety and as we learn that, before the film was finished, Junge was only now learning to forgive herself.

discuss this post at our messageboard