Thursday, 18 February 2010

Jud Suess - Film ohne Gewissen, Oskar Roehler, Germany 2010

The film's poster for the UK and US markets

Oskar Roehler's highly anticipated film that revolves around the actor Ferdinand Marian who in Veit Harlan's infamous Nazi propaganda film of 1940, Jud Suess, played the central role of Joseph Suess Oppenheimer, who in the 18th century was the financial adviser of Duke Karl Alexander of Wuerttemberg. In 1925, the German writer Lion Feuchtwanger wrote a historical novel on Suess in which he examines the latent anti-Semitism that led to Suess' arrest and, eventually, to his death at the gallows. Harlan's film, which was made on the instigation of Goebbels himself, is supposed to be based on Feuchtwanger's novel. However, crucial elements of Feuchtwanger's novel had been omitted and distorted in order to correspond with the racial and ideological principles of Nazi Germany.

Tobias Moretti and Moritz Bleibtreu in Oskar Roehler's Jus Suess - Film ohne Gewissen

Ironically, Roehler's film - although, needless to say, far from being a propaganda film - also immediately sparked considerable controversy because of distortion. However, in this case the distortion relates to Ferdinand Marian's life and the background surrounding him being cast as Suess. According to Roehler, these changes were made to 'make the film more entertaining', as Roehler himself put it during the press conference. He stressed that he deliberately avoided sticking too close to the facts as his intention was not to make a documentary. Nevertheless, the liberties by Roehler and his scriptwriter have taken in their approach prompted the Berlin-based daily Tagesspiegel to write that Roehler's film 'turns an accomplice into a victim'.

During the press conference Roehler also stressed that he intended to inject his film with a fair amount of satire as, first of all, looking at Goebbels and his cronies from today's point of view, they do indeed seem like clowns, making it unfathomable how a whole nation could actually be brought to blindly follow them and fall for their insidious and ultimately murderous intentions. While this seems to make sense - although I'd have to first see the film before passing final judgment - the explanation for the distortion of certain historical facts for entertainment purposes seems much less convincing.

Director Oskar Roehler on the set of Jud Suess - Film ohne Gewissen, flanked by Martina Gedeck and Moritz Bleibtreu

Roehler's film has its official world premiere tonight at the Berlinale Palast in the presence of Oskar Roehler and the principal cast which includes German thesps Tobias Moretti, Martina Gedeck, Justus von Dohnanyi and Moritz Bleibtreu.