Monday, November 29, 2021

Review of the TV series “Spire Goes to Hollywood”: Nazi leader faced cinema

The Times aims to review cinematic films during COVID-19 pandemic… Since going to the movies is risky at this time, we remind readers to follow safety and health guidelines. developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials

Was the Nazi official and adherent of Adolf Hitler Albert Speer, the hero of the gripping, often chilling documentary The Spire Goes Hollywood, “wrote history or wrote his own history”? This is how the film’s director Vanessa Lapa asks about Spear’s long 1971 interview with screenwriter Andrew Birkin, from which she skillfully constructed this stunning portrait.

As thought out here, Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, and two years later began working as chief architect of the then Chancellor Hitler, later adding to his duties as chief building inspector of Berlin. In 1942, der Führer appointed Speer as his Minister of Armaments and War Production, overseeing the creation and distribution of weapons and ammunition for use by the Nazi military.

Over the years, Speer has required manpower – in large numbers – to achieve his lofty goals in the construction and production of ammunition; his projects used mainly slave labor, much of which eventually came from Nazi concentration camps. By 1944, he had 14 million workers under his command, about a third of whom died working in hellish conditions. Speer called Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews “a waste of labor for us.” What a guy.

Despite being responsible for countless deaths, during the post-war Nuremberg Trials, Speer somehow escaped the gallows (unlike many of his colleagues and subordinates) and was instead sentenced to 20 years in prison for war crimes and crimes. against humanity. Was it his misleading testimony, his gentlemanly charisma, self-preservation cunning, or just luck that helped him avoid a worst-case scenario? This was a startling result for the man who told the Tribunal that if Hitler had friends, it would be Speer.

But there was something clearly Teflon about Speer, which lasted until the publication of his memoir Inside the Third Reich in 1969, in which he oxymoronically portrayed himself as a “good Nazi” who knew little about the monstrous world. the actions that unfolded around him. The book effectively highlighted his role in the Holocaust and became a worldwide bestseller.

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This is where Hollywood and Birkin, a protégé of Stanley Kubrick (and brother of actress Jane Birkin), came from: Paramount Pictures, which developed the fictional biopic based on Spear’s book, sent the young writer to visit a former Nazi in his Heidelberg. , Germany, home to collaborate with him on the script. (Contrary to the title of the document, “Hollywood” went to Speer.)

The result was 40 hours of recorded conversations, although their degraded, nearly 50-year-old quality required Lapa to hire actors Anno Köhler and Jeremy Portnoy to effectively re-record Speer and Birkin’s voices, respectively. She reduced the edited audio to gripping narration and combined it with a stunning set of archived images before, during and after World War II.

The film features a startling – and startlingly striking – number of rare videos of Hitler and his most famous top aides (including Speer) in action, gripping footage of the Nuremberg sentences and heartbreaking footage of the death camps. It’s hard to forget the look at the specially made iron cabinet that was used to torture Russian civilian workers.

But it is precisely Speer’s apparently anti-Semitic conversations with Birkin as he retells his wartime tale – or rather the tale he wants the screenwriter to tell – that constitutes the unsettling core of the film, as we see how easily the story can be manipulated and erased. (The film is nothing short of frighteningly timely.)

Worse, Speer, open and relaxed, appears on some level to convince Birkin of his self-made truths – or at least the validity of using them in the script – despite the obvious contradictions and illusions (and objections from director Carol Reed from “Oliver!”, With whom Birkin is chatting on the phone).

Lapa, who co-authored the documentary with Joel Alexis, cannot explain how and why The Third Reich was ultimately never made, but it was clearly an ill-conceived project from the start. Unlike Paw’s bright and lively film, which has a lot to say and is well said.

“Spier Goes Hollywood”

In English, German and French with English subtitles

Not rated

Duration: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Plays: Kicks off November 5 at Theater Royal Lemmle, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino

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