Dec 29, 2012


If any filmmaker dedicated his life and art to the seemingly pathetically paternally pathological by belittling his father in oblivion and acting as the repellent archetype of the self-loathing post-WWII kraut, it is Thomas Harlan; the rather regretful son of German auteur Veit Harlan, who is best known for his National Socialist melodramas Jud Süß (1940) aka Jew Süss and Opfergang (1944). As for his son Thomas, if he is remembered for anything, at least as far as cinema history is concerned, it is his bewilderingly incriminating Baader-Meinhof Group-deifying quasi-docudrama work Wundkanal (1984) aka Gun Wound aka Wound Passage that involved the decidedly dishonest and arguably demented director into conning an ex-SS officer named Alfred Filbert – who like Veit Harlan was charged with war crimes – to go under interrogation under patently false pretenses about his involvement with the death of around 11,000 Jews in Eastern Europe. As a crew member for Wundkanal explained in the documentary Our Nazi (1984), he deeply felt that Thomas Harlan and the production crew were, "doing really monstrous things and he has no idea; he doesn't know what the purpose of this movie is.  He feels he has a truth to tell and we won't let him," in regard to how Dr. Filbert was treated during the direction of the "war criminal-exploitation" film. Of course, as it become quite clear while watching the film, Wundkanal was made as a sort of warped pretext for Thomas Harlan to channel his lifelong loathing of his father Viet, who had already been dead about two decades upon the release of the film. Although Veit Harlan was acquitted of “crimes against humanity” for his role in directing the notorious Nazi propaganda melodrama Jud Süß, it seems that son Harlan was not happy with the outcome so he finds his father guilty by proxy via Dr. Filbert in his venom-laced work of sicko son celluloid patricide Wundkanal. Although Thomas Harlan had the rare honor of meeting Adolf Hitler when he was 8-years-old and would, unlike most Germans of his time immediately following the absolute devastation of his Heimat during the Second World War, grew up relatively comfortably due to his father’s success as a filmmaker, the fortunate son would spend the rest of most of his adult years dwelling on his contempt for his father and Fatherland’s legacy. One can only guess where this radical resentment of the patriarch began, but it probably starts with the fact that Thomas’ father divorced his actress mother Hilde Körber due to political reasons relating to his dedication to National Socialism and married Swedish actress Kristina Söderbaum – the buxom blonde star of Opfergang (1944) and Kolberg (1944) – not long thereafter. Not unsurprisingly, Thomas was not the only one to prove that hatred and biological resentment ran deep in the Harlan family as his sister Susanne Körber converted to Judaism and married a holocaust survivor and would inevitably kill herself in 1989. Needless to say, I doubt brother Thomas’ film Wundkanal did much to stifle her hatred of the infamous man who sired her. 

 Long before directing Wundkanal and physically degenerating into what would resemble a bitter old obese lesbian, Thomas Harlan began his highly personal campaign of obscenely obsessed ‘intellectual Nazi hunting,’ which quite possibly began with a symbolic trip to Israel with Klaus Kinski of all people in 1952. Although Thomas was given the opportunity to collaborate with his father on a screenplay for the the cinematic work Verrat an Deutschland (1955) aka Betrayal to Germany – a surprisingly symbolically titled work that would make for a great biography title for the third-rate arthouse director's contribution to Teutonic cultural history – which Viet Harlan also directed, the two battled over the content of the script and the son’s contributions to the written work were distorted to some degree, thereupon probably putting the final nail in the coffin for their ill-fated father-son relationship. By 1959 hysterical Harlan was being sued left and right by various ex-Nazi-turned-West-German-politicans for libel and by 1960 had moved to Poland to do fanatical research on concentration camps and as a feverish and forbidding far-left activist ultimately collected enough information on undetected war crimes to help bring about over 2,000 criminal proceedings against fellow Germans, but proving his commitment to personally heedless, needless, and senseless self-destruction, the self-stylized would-be-revolutionary was put under house arrest for one year for breaching Polish state secrets and would also be denied a German passport for ten years and was not allowed to enter the Federal Republic of Germany for using classified German interrogation records in Polack publications. A decade after suddenly giving up his research on the holocaust, Harlan displayed his ever so erratic and all-consuming ethno-masochism by traveling to the Amerikkkas and hooking up with a number of Marxist and far-left terrorist groups, including joining the Chilean resistance movement against anti-Castro Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, but it would ultimately be Wundkanal that would prove to be the ‘high’ point in his artistic career and the root to the failed artists' perverse paternal-based pathologies. As explained by American film professor Anton Kaes in his left-leaning book From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film (1989) in regard to the demented 'daddy-deprecating' dialectic of Wundkanal: “the more we become aware of the hatred and vindictiveness of the son, the more we pity the father; his vulnerability engages our interest more than the moral rigor of the son, whose violent revenge scenario proves ultimately to be self-destructive.” 

 To get the whole picture in regard to the production of and intent behind Wundkanal, one must watch the companion documentary Notre Nazi (1984) aka Our Nazi directed by American Jewish documentarian Robert Kramer; a man who despite being of the Judaic faith, shows more sensitivity and compassion to the elderly old Jew-killer than the seething sadomasochistic son-of-a-Nazi who directed it. Aside from physically and emotionally torturing ex-Nazi Dr. Alfred Filbert, exquisite ethno-masochist Thomas Harlan explains to an orthodox Jew on the film set in a groveling manner regarding the SS man while in a fit of hysterical hatred that: “this movie has been made to burn into the earth and in the heavens the fragment of truth that we can find inside this barbarian, who remained a barbarian. You’re not facing a human being. You see the earthly remains of a man who no longer exists, and who never existed as a man.” Naturally, Thomas Harlan, no doubt a hopelessly naïve humanist whose discordant moral compass is dictated by a victim-based mentality, goes on to describe Dr. Filbert as one of the worst humans in history to earn kudos points from the seemingly apathetic Hebrew, but unlike the much more objectively assembed work Our Nazi, one does not get a true sense as to what extent the father-hating would go to such cowardly and pathetic extremes while watching the slickly assembled yet aesthetically vapid minimalistic work Wundkanal; an unbelievably wicked work of exploitation of the elderly and self-glorifying masturbation of the worst phony leftist kind where the deranged director even taunting that the old man commit suicide via asphyxiation with a plastic bag supplied to him (which, he in fact wraps around his head), on top of having the man put a handgun at the back of his head self-execution style (apparently, many of Filbert's victims died under dubious suicides). Such torture of old terminally ill war criminals, both in film and real-life, has become quite trendy as of recently as displayed by Israel’s decades long hounding of Ukrainian-American John Demjanjuk (a man who was deported to Israel in 1986 and falsely found guilty and sentenced to death there in 1988, but was eventually released due to mistaken identity), among countless other naughty 'no spring' Nazis, who was wheelchair bound and on his deathbed when he died while facing dubious charges based off Soviet falsified evidence, as well as the would-be-quirky-and-cute Hollywood cryptic-holocaust-propaganda drama This Must Be the Place (2011) directed by Paolo Sorrentino where a seemingly autistic and gender confused ex-rock star modeled after Robert Smith of the Cure named Cheyenne (played by far-left mischling Judaic Sean Penn; a master of playing filmic retards and psychopaths) forces an elderly former SS Officer to strip naked and run in the snow in a scene not unlike the sort you find in Steven Spielberg's showy shoah epic Schindler's List (1993), all because the man caused the half-retard rocker’s father – an apparently miserly and hateful man who left his son a socially inept bastard – to inadvertently piss his pants while in a concentration camp. 

 Of course, if Thomas Harlan can be credited for any ‘cinematic innovation,’ it is utilizing the medium of film as a morally dubious method for exploiting the elderly in a precarious manner so as to dastardly denigrate one’s father as translucently depicted in Wundkanal; a film that proves artistic talent is not always inherited by sons. While Veit Harlan’s films featured vivid Technicolor, themes of love and sacrifice, an appreciation for beauty, nature, and kultur, and love for life, his son Thomas made visually unprepossessing, aesthetically and thematically mechanical, and ultimately lifeless films not unlike contemporary Hollywood action and sci-fi flicks with contrived moralizing and megalomaniacal preaching that would probably only appeal to the singularly and unsoundly self-indulgent filmmaker himself. Interestingly, scenes from Veit Harlan’s films featuring the director’s wife Kristina Söderbaum (the woman that replaced Thomas’ mother) are featured in Wundkanal and are reminisced on fondly and nostalgically by the old SS officer, thereupon linking Thomas Harlan's with the propagation of genocide as tools for entertaining and providing therapy Nazi facing the stresses of war. At one point in Wundkanal, the old Nazi cries when recollecting the dubious death of his brother in a Buchenwald concentration camp and the complete and utter incineration of his sister-in-law in an allied firebombing campaign, which Thomas Harlan vehemently concludes is a totally disingenuous display of emotions and that the elderly man was merely weeping for himself due to the fact he didn’t get a promotion while in the SS. I found this scene to be especially relevant as Harlan’s assumptions seem to be a symbolic projection of his own ‘artistic’ career and leftist crusade as a man who claimed to be exposing evil Nazis and bringing them to justice and fighting the good fight for the Jews and other disenfranchised folks, when in reality it is quite apparent that he had ulterior motives and that his guiding motivation was seeking revenge against his infamous/famous father who, on top of divorcing his mother, brought irrevocable shame to his family name due to Germany’s defeat in the Second World War.

 In Europe, there is a saying that Germans will never forgive the Jews for what they, the Germans, did to them. Had Germany won the war and Viet Harlan retained his respectability as one of Germany's greatest filmmaker's during that period, it is highly doubtful that Thomas Harlan would have turned out the way he did, just as it is doubtful that a peculiar national phenomenon like the Red Army Faction – a group of morbidly ethno-masochistic ‘rock star’ terrorists who hated their fathers' generation for being Nazis and thus rebelled via mostly directionless and meangingless murder and mayhem – would have ever been spawned, as such individuals are undoubtedly akin to symbolic spiritual syphilis of a defeated nation with a severly suicidal collective unconscious. Despite the physical and emotional torment he faced at the hands of the innately manipulative, manic, and malicious Thomas Harlan via Wundkanal, Dr. Filbert would apparently go on to state that his “experience with the movies had been the greatest moment of his life,” which is an outcome that the director was surely not hoping for, thereupon making the ex-Nazi seem like a more rational, warmhearted, and reasonable person than the perturbed person who shamelessly tried to ‘expose’ him under dubious conditions of contempt. Although Dr. Filbert spent 18 years in prison for his alleged war crimes before being released due to poor health and working on Wundkanal shortly thereafter, his conscious was certainly more clear than Thomas Harlan; a man whose own family members concluded he wasted his whole life dwelling on his overwhelming malice for his father as depicted in the documentary Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss (2008) directed by Felix Moeller.  Of course, I guess it should not be that big of a surprise Thomas Harlan led the loser life he did as he was one of the few personal friends of the infamously crazy actor Klaus Kinski; a German national of Polish descent who was ambivalent towards his homeland after making the conscious decision to desert his soldierly duties in the German Wehrmacht, whereupon he was subsequently caught, court-martialed, and sentenced to death, but eventually escaped and intentionally had himself captured by the British and remained a POW for the rest of the Second World War.  It is often said that the Jews were the greatest victims of World War II, but one only has to watch Wundkanal and countless other German films to see that it was probably the Fatherland's sons that have suffered the most, especially in regard to the soul.  After all, I cannot remember the last time I saw a film directed by a Jewish filmmaker depicting the slaughter of millions of white Russian Christians by Jewish bolshevik hangmen, nor an Israeli auteur directing a work about the liquidation of Palestinian children by IDF men.  

-Ty E

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A truly superb reveiw Ty E, quite magnificent.