Apr 2, 2011

Captain Berlin Versus Hitler

(C) Jörg Buttgereit

Proto-Nazi völkisch writer Arthur Moeller van den Bruck believed that Germany had the right to take over lands of alien races due to their superior kultur and völk- as the Teutons could only bring progress to these inferior nations. After the devastating defeat of Germany in two World Wars - völkisch theories like Moeller's were pretty much universally discredited throughout the Occidental world - at least in regard to military prowess and in a relativist humanistic sense. Of course, the allies had no problem stealing defeated German's technological inventions - for Germany was easily the most scientifically advanced nation at that time. Ever since the end of World War II and the split of Germany into two separates states (which were only considered "secondary" nations as far as power goes) - as predicted by Oswald Spengler - organic German kultur has been on the steady decline (despite the end of the Berlin wall). Of course, Germany is still one of the greatest industrial producers (despite being de-industrialized by the allies after the second World War) in the world, yet the country is nowhere near as innovative as it was during the first half of the twentieth century. For example, Germany has yet to produce an artistically innovative filmmaker greater than F.W. Murnau nor has the country produced a filmmaker more technically innovative as Nazi state-funded auteur Leni Riefenstahl. F.W. Murnau would later work in Hollywood and direct his masterpiece Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, but still utilizing a virtually all German film crew, and later Hollywood blockbuster filmmakers would steal Riefenstahl's groundbreaking Teutonic cinematic techniques - producing big budget artificially-stylized cinematic dribble. One of the reasons why I like German necro-auteur Jörg Buttgereit so much is because of the distinctly German quality of his original five feature-length films: Hot Love, Nekromantik, Der Todesking, Nekromantik II: Return of the Loving Dead, and Schramm. After a 16 year absence from feature-length filmmaking, Buttgereit eventually released Captain Berlin Versus Hitler (2009) - a film shot over the course of 3 days in a Berlin theater. Unlike Buttgereit's previous feature-length films, Captain Berlin Versus Hitler was shot on digital video during a live stage play. Also, unlike Buttgereit's previous efforts, Captain Berlin Versus Hitler is highly reflective of the Americanization of German culture.

(C) Jörg Buttgereit

The most glaring aspect of Captain Berlin Versus Hitler that reflects the post-World War II influence of America on German culture is the film's superhero protagonist Captain Berlin. It is no secret that most of the early comic book innovators in America were of the Jewish persuasion. In fact, America's most popular superhero - Superman - was created by Zionist Jews Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. Ironically, Superman (who was originally supposed to be "evil") - like Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg and his völkisch theories - was inspired by the übermenschlich philosophies of Teuton philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Of course, Buttgereit's Captain Berlin is Germany's answer to Superman (with characteristics of Captain America thrown in for good measure). Also taking influence from America - the Dracula vampire featured in Captain Berlin Versus Hitler resembles the iconic Universal Pictures Dracula played by Bela Lugosi and not that rat-like vampire Count Orlok featured in German auteur F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922). Last but not least, Captain Berlin Versus Hitler is mostly a parodic comedy - certainly a traditional trade of Jewry but not so much a common characteristic of conventional German artistry.  During his childhood, Buttgereit's Grandmother bought him Creature Feature bubblegum cards, thus sparking the horror movie obsession that would eventually erupt into an artistically successful "Art House Horror" filmmaking career.  In 2009, Buttgereit finished his cinematic Frankenstein - Captain Berlin Versus Hitler - the auteur filmmaker's greatest tribute to genre that caused him to develop into the mad-German-scientist-film-director that he is today. Essentially, Captain Berlin Versus Hitler is Buttgereit's answer to Syberberg's Hitler: A Film from Germany (1977) - taking inspiration from an eclectic range of seemingly unrelated works including Mel Brook's The Producers, Universal Monsters (especially Frankenstein and Dracula), The Boys from Brazil, and the director's nostalgic love for American comic books. 

(C) Jörg Buttgereit

 (C) Jörg Buttgereit

In 1982, Jorg Buttgereit originally introduced his German superhero Captain Berlin in a short of the same name. Over a 1/4 century later, Buttgereit finally realized the feature-length film Captain Berlin Versus Hitler - set in 1973 - where Captain Berlin battles against Adolf Hitler's preserved brain. Isle von Blitzen - a sexy Nazi chic doctor who saved Hitler's brain during the conclusion of World War II - acts as the antagonistic caregiver of Hitler's gray matter. Von Blitzen creates a Frankenstein-type creature named "Germanikus" out of the bodily remains of decomposed SA and SS soldiers - which is designed by the sadistic SShe-wolf as a vessel for Uncle Adolf's brain. To von Blitzen's disgust, she has to hunt down communist vampire Count Dracula in Romania - as his antique blood will animate the Totenkopf-Frankenstein body she has assembled. Despite being a count, Dracula is a true believer in the internationalist cause - a fighter for the proletarian who enjoys sipping on hot Aryan blood. Captain Berlin, who in his normal everyday life works as a leftist yellow journalist, becomes distressed when Isle von Blitzen and Dracula steal his voluptuous Aryan daughter Maria.  After Germanikus acts in a typically Frankenstein-esque manner of mental and physical instability, Ms. von Blitzen produces a Krupp steel HITLERROBO body for Adolf's lonely brain.  Historically, Krupp steel - a 400-year old German dynasty - became the center for German rearmament after Hitler's rise to power in 1933.  In Captain Berlin Versus Hitler, Buttgereit successfully interweaves horrible historical fact with phantasmagorical science fiction - certainly a grand achievement that will bring happiness to any serious underground cinephile.  As one would expect from a film by Buttgereit, Captain Berlin Versus Hitler features an excellent synthesizer-driven soundtrack that fans of Kraftwerk would certainly admire.  From beginning to end, Captain Berlin Versus Hitler is a comedic absurdist ride through the perverse mind of Jörg Buttgereit and his greatest personal obsessions.

All pics (C) Jörg Buttgereit

Before the end of World War II - whilst growing up in the Fatherland - German youth looked up to the historical heroes (from Frederick the Great to Goethe) of their past for inspiration. After World War II, any sort of National pride in Germany was mostly considered taboo - as it was usually associated with Nazi Germany and the propaganda that was spouted by that regime. Having no Germanic heroes growing up (one could say, "a father-less fatherland"), Buttgereit invented the fictional hero Captain Berlin - a German superhero who waged war against Uncle Adolf and gave Germany some lasting integrity by helping to clean-off the infamous legacy of Nazi taint. In Buttgereit's short Mein Papi - shot between 1981-1995 - the Teutonic auteur belittled his own father - documenting his lifetime of steadily accelerating degeneration - starting out as a handsome young Aryan of Germany and eventually morphing into a typically obese-philistine-couch-potato Yankee-like creature whose personal integrity had worn to nil. Captain Berlin Versus Hitler is undoubtedly Buttgereit's most escapist film - offering an alternate pseudo-reality where the good Germans defeated Austrian peasant Adolf Hitler and restored Deutschland's posterity from within.  Buttgereit also grew up in the wake of the Baader-Meinhoff terrorist attacks in Germany, thus it is no surprise that he also lampoons the shallow nihilistic idealism of Communism in Captain Berlin Versus Hitler.  In the film, Dracula - the most cunning of all monsters - militantly states, "You're corrupted by the ugly face of capitalism" - in a feeble attempt to validate his genocidal monster brand.  In the world of Captain Berlin Versus Hitler - both opposing collectivist political ideologies: National Socialism (Nazism) and Communism (Marxism) - the real-life historic monsters that led to Germany's ruin - are the true bogeymen of the film.  Dracula and Hitler's brain merely act as entertaining archetypes for these historically disastrous political ideologies.

Peter Synthetik (theme song creator), Claudia Steiger (Dr. Ilse von Blitzen), Jörg Buttgereit (director)
(C) neverhorst.de

Although some fans of the Nekromantik films might not appreciate Captain Berlin Versus Hitler, I, for one, was pleasantly surprised by the unconventional work and have now come to the realization that Buttgereit is an eclectic artist whose talent is marvelously multifaceted - proven by his ability to innovate, gross out, humor, and intrigue the viewer - despite creating only a handful of cinematic offerings during his low-budget filmmaking career. After my first viewing of Captain Berlin Versus Hitler - I knew the film captured the artistic prowess of Buttgereit's earlier works (albeit of a different flavor) - as I already have the impulsive desire to revisit the unconventional cross-genre-gothic-horror-science-fiction-hybrid superhero flick and once again become enthralled by the Germanic artistry that no other artist could successfully duplicate; nor would any other filmmaker have the gall to capture the post-Nazi German zeitgeist Herr Buttgereit has so wickedly, yet lavishly dreamed up. For more info on Captain Berlin Versus Hitler, check out The Official Website of Jörg Buttgereit and Media Target Distribution.

-Ty E


The Diary of a Milkman said...

A stage play by Buttgereit? That's just too different to pass up.

Thanks for the heads up!

MKS said...

Buttgereit is an original filmmaker with a focused world view. That makes him very rare.

Unknown said...

I was lucky enough to get to write about this one for Screem magazine a few issues back and loved it. It's wholly unique, as is Buttgereit. Actual comic books haven't been this cool since the EC days, but even those did not have a great electronic score.

Phantom of Pulp said...

Heather, is the score by the same trio who composed Nekromantik?

Unknown said...

As far as I know, the main composer for CAPTAIN BERLIN, both the original short and the play-film, is Peter Synthetic.

Soiled Sinema said...

Indeed, Peter Synthetik composed the theme song for "Captain Berlin Versus Hitler." The final picture in this review features Synthetik with Buttgereit and the lady that played Ilse von Blitzen. I'm pretty sure he wasn't involved with creating the music for the Nekromantik films.

Hermann Kopp, Daktari Lorenz and
John Boy Walton(which is undoubtedly a pseudonym) created the music for both of the Nekfromantik films. Lorenz (who apparently now lives in Japan) also played Rob Schmadtke, the Necrophiliac anti-hero of Nekromantik. Peter Kowalski also contributed to the soundtrack of Nekromantik II.

-Ty E