The trivialization of a Hitler movie.

The trivialization of a Hitler movie. May 12, 2008

The first time I saw someone put brand-new subtitles on this clip from Downfall (2004; my review), it was when Warner decided to ditch their HD-DVD product and go exclusively with Blu-Ray as their next-generation, high-definition format of choice:

Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

More recently, there was this version produced after the Democratic primaries in North Carolina and Indiana last week:
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

These were the only two variations of this gimmick that had come my way until today, when I came across this post by Karina Longworth, who is surprised to discover that there have been several other variations as well. She comments:

Almost all of these clips have view counts on YouTube in the six or seven figures. Downfall was the second-highest grossing foreign language film of 2005, but it still only made about $5.5 million. Almost certainly, more people in this country have now seen a clip from the film wrangled into a new context than would have ever seen the film in its original state. Downfall thus becomes part of the cultural conversation, but at the same time, it seems unlikely that any of these clips could effectively function as commercials for the film. Maybe it’s sad or maybe it’s totally appropriate, but it seems clear that the general YouTube user would be able to summon way more excitement for the concept of Hitler on the phone with Microsoft tech support, than they would for the concept of Hitler…doing Hitler stuff.

So, ironically, the movie that was supposed to “humanize” Hitler — not by excusing him, but by treating him as a human being with enormous flaws rather than a cartoon or a supernatural demonic type — has ended up contributing to his trivialization.

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