The Pianist (2002), Roman Polanski

Poignant and to the point, Roman Polanski’s 2002 The Pianist, a truly modern masterwork that manages to blend the experience of millions of Jews into the story of a gifted Polish musician, delves deep into the core of Homo Sapiens, placing an awkward mirror in front of us.

the-pianist-2The horrific crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II serve as reminders of the human potential for evil. A potential, as Hannah Arendt understood, inherent in us all. For the Holocaust – or for that matter, any witch-hunt throughout the course of history – would not be possible without the willingness of good and ordinary people. Historical awareness might somehow give us the illusion of a distance between those people and ourselves, but it can’t prevent any of us from acting the exact same way if circumstances arise. Continue reading

M (1931), Fritz Lang

As disturbing as it is thrilling, Fritz Lang’s 1931 M – with its tale of a child murderer causing panic in Germany – sets some groundbreaking rules for serial killer movies to come and asks difficult questions about society’s responsibility towards mentally unstable individuals.

m-2Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece M not only subverts every storytelling rule that there is, but most importantly, it documents a crucial era in German history. In its prescience, the film depicts a society at war with itself, few years before it engaged in real battle with its neighbouring, powerful nations. The police state seems already in full force, even before the Nazis took control of the country and made sure every citizen spied on each other. By antagonizing such a society with a truly despicable – albeit a pitiable one – individual, the film plays a magnificent and ambiguous game. Continue reading

Metropolis (1927), Fritz Lang

An iconic silent sci-fi masterwork and a landmark in the history of cinema, Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis, this dystopian vision of man, his toys and his imagination, is paradoxically too prescient and visionary to be a real threat to the modern economic and political status quo.

metropolis-2Fritz Lang’s Metropolis outlines all that’s wrong with humanity. In its apparently naïve message and melodramatic plot structure, the film condemns technological advance as a means of exploiting age-old class divisions in society. Publicly, members of the elite, helped by useful idiots and not-so-useful cretins, scoff at the notion that so much power is concentrated in so few hands, but privately, they laugh unrestrained and yet not out loud as not to disturb the servants downstairs. Continue reading

Triumph of the Will (1935), Leni Riefenstahl

Equally despised for its celebration of the Nazis and praised  for its technical artistry, Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will, a unique propaganda film, sits at the top of a controversial pile, indirectly questioning the very nature of artistic freedom and bias in art.

triumph-of-the-will-2Any reasonably educated person is well aware of the brutality of the Nazis and the unspeakable acts of barbarism perpetrated by the regime. The explosive cocktail of nationalism, racism and self-victimisation, instigated by Adolf Hitler, led to the destruction of Germany and the loss of tens of millions of lives across Europe. It is unnecessary to warn anyone of the evils associated with the National Socialist Party. However, Leni Riefenstahl’s astonishing documentary-cum-propaganda Triumph of the Will [Triumph des Willens] cannot be blamed for the atrocities derived from the ideology. Continue reading