Apr 27, 2013

Der Bomberpilot

If anything remotely resembling a Nazisploitation flick was ever sired by a filmmaker of German New Cinema, it is most certainly dandy auteur Werner Schroeter’s salacious yet satirical exercise in swastika excess, Der Bomberpilot (1970) aka The Bomber Pilot—a wanton work about three exceedingly eccentric revue divas that make up a National Socialist cabaret that has about as much respect for historical reality as Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1974) and The Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977). Of course, unlike the average, rather worthless and aesthetically nauseating Nazisploitation flick, Der Bomberpilot is a bawdy piece of high-camp celluloid that, not unlike naughty Nazi-themed arthouse flicks like The Damned (1969) directed by Luchino Visconti and Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter (1974), albeit to a more heightened degree, wallows in aesthetic indulgence and kinky yet cultivated kitsch, and contains a certain perverse passion for misery and tragedy that would put National Socialist auteur Veit Harlan to shame. A decadent and disconcerting work that features a titillating trio of sensual yet scatterbrained Nazi cabaret performers who face personal struggle and crisis after the annihilation of the Third Reich and decide to see how they will fair in the racially mongrelized USA, Der Bomberpilot is a rare Nazi-themed film that quite literally makes nil mention of concentration camps, Jews, or Nazi war crimes, but instead acts as a sort of apolitical and operatic, tableau-ridden equivalent to works like The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) or Germany, Pale Mother (1980) in its depiction of the Nazi wartime and Adenauer eras. An audaciously anarchistic and anachronistic cinematic work featuring a variety of eclectic songs from Verdi, Strauss, the musical West Side Story, Bruckner, Sibelius, Elvis, Richard Wagner, and various German and American pop songs of the 1960s, Der Bomberpilot is a wonderfully vexing variegation of discordant and oftentimes disposed of aesthetic ingredients from the post-holocaust ash heap of history that makes no excuses for completely ignoring the less flattering yet most infamous facts of German mid-twentieth century history all together. For example, one of the female protagonists of Der Bomberpilot sings a version of the racially charged Johann Strauss II waltz “Wiener Blut” ('Viennese Blood' or 'Viennese Spirit'), yet Schroeter’s intentionally tainted version of the song is all the more ‘nazifed’ and concludes with the rather telling line: “What’s done is done…The past is past…One doesn’t discuss it…” A ridiculously wayward piece of campy celluloid revisionist history of the thankfully quite reprehensible sort, Der Bomberpilot is Werner Schroeter at his best and most blatant as a work, not unlike most of his oeuvre, that stresses aesthetic refinement of both high and lowbrow kultur over 'official' historical reality, as well as kitschy tableau over a linear storyline. Forget a bunch of pedantic professors and jailed and elderly historical revisionists like Ernst Zündel, Der Bomberpilot—with its rather ridiculous and raunchy Nazi revue girls that are in stark comparison to what everyone thinks they know about the Third Reich—is the real road for Germans and other Europeans to take back their history as an exaggerated anti-tribute to National Socialist kitsch and the culture-less American conquerors who destroyed it and replaced it with piss poor pseudo-Kulturscheisse.

 As three beauteous yet erotically bodacious ladies who salute the swastika flag in a totally disorderly and narcissistic, half-nude fashion in devilish black and red corsets and black fishnet stockings, it is amazing the lewd and lecherous ladies of Der Bomberpilot have yet to be detained indefinitely in a concentration camp for their less than Aryanness-like ways. When wild child Mascha (played Mascha Rabben of Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970), Robert van Ackeren’s Harlis (1972), and Fassbinder’s World on a Wire (1973))—a feisty redhead who likes to get buck naked in the woods as a sort of nymphomaniac Nazi fairy who is far too untamed to belong to any official Wandervogel group, let alone be a member of the League of German Maidens—has a heated nervous breakdown that seems more like a childish temper tantrum of the superlatively selfish sort, the three hot and hedonistic divas have to quit their dream jobs as campy cabaret girls and go somewhat 'underground' in Nazi Germany. The other two luxurious ladies of the three person risqué Reich are Magdalena (Schroeter’s muse Magdalena Montezuma)—the aunt of Mascha and the most ‘professional’ and mature one in the group—and Carla (early Schroeter regular Carla Egerer of Eika Katappa (1969) and Fassbinder’s Pioneers in Ingolstadt (1971)), who is a tiny blonde beastess who is constantly plagued by personal tragedy and heartbreak due to her weakness for Viennese choirboys. While Mascha and Magdalena receive jobs as ‘church restorers’ who paint religious temples with Fidus-esque völkisch kitsch art, Carla splits off from the group and goes to Sopot to star in a Viennese tragedy and work at a pastry shop, where she faces personal tragedy after a gentleman caller (played by Schroeter himself) commits suicide after she blows him off. After Magdalena hears on the radio that “Our Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, has fallen in war,” she attempts suicide via drowning herself in a lake, but by happenstance, her nubile, nature-loving niece Mascha spots her in the act and saves her life as a hilarious song plays in the background, with the lyrics, “...that an angel can be black? Many small negroes look pleadingly at you. Whether we are rich or poor we will all die. That shows that we’re all the same when we stand at heaven’s door.” Indubitably, the strangely seductive song lyrics seem to be a premonition of sorts, as the erotic enfant terrible trio eventually decide to go to the multicultural United States of America and try their lot at racial integration mixed with Teutonism after smoking a filtered marijuana cigarette. 

 After the Second World War, the three gals take jobs as stenographers and attend a Bruckner concert where they debate a possible move to American, but Carla, “can only think back to the successes of 1943, to the Viennese operetta, with the choir boys.” Carla's statement is especially telling as it shows her total ignorance to history because during the beginning of February 1943, the German army was defeated during the Battle of Stalingrad and the 6th Army had completely capitulated, thus marking the beginning of the end for the Third Reich. Young Mascha is convinced that women’s liberation, writing manifestos, and America are the way of the future, stating to her friends, “We three, who went through so much in Adolf Hitler’s Reich, we could certainly formulate a manifesto and as a lecture series at a college or an American university, for the concept of Germanism…combined with racial integration…and recreate it for ourselves.” Of course, the three have clearly never seen Werner Herzog’s Stroszek (1977) and as Carla states, “in sheer desperation, after breakfast we smoked a filtered marijuana cigarette and saw the possibilities of racial integration in a new light” and thus decided to immigrate to the Negrophiliac USA as visiting teachers to “stake their claim.” Although initially suspected of being communists as many foreigners in the U.S. were at that time, the group’s “credibility was undermined” after a German-American cook gave Nazi era pictures of the wild women during their “best days” to the American media, but it is ultimately “Mascha’s affair with a bomber pilot” that puts an end to their residence permit. Due to their rejection in the ‘land of the free’ and philistines, the girls decide to embrace their past and get back into the cabaret act at an American officers' club in Landshut, albeit for the exploitative pleasure of American occupying forces, where Carla performs opera solos with filmmaker Daniel Schmid (Tonight or Never, La Paloma)—the one-time lover and lifelong friend of Werner Schroeter who also acted as the assistant director for Der Bomberpilot—on piano and another one as a transsexual sailor in the style of Genet’s Querelle, Magalena does a topless and seemingly possessed ‘snake dance,’ and the three do kitschy avant-garde cabaret acts with mannequins. Unfortunately, all good things come to end and after Mascha’s Amerikkkan bomber pilot boyfriend does the unthinkable by boning Carla, thereupon getting her pregnant which ends in a miscarriage that plagues her with a bad hip, the cabaret trio is tragicomedically crushed, thus signaling the total end for naughty Nazi revue girls everywhere in a world now dominated by American hegemony and the cult of multiculturalism. 

 Assuredly one of Werner Schroeter’s most accessible, if not typically aesthetically and thematically discordant, works, Der Bomberpilot also happens to be one of his most distinctly ‘German,’ if rather reluctantly so, as well as (a)political works, as a carnal and campy kitsch piece that contradicts the Allies' version of history (as well as the Nazi version) through the exaggeratedly wacky and wanton antics of three politically ignorant girls whose sole passion is being highly desirable divas in spite of what regime happens to reign where they live. After one of the girls confesses after their failed attempt of freedom in the land of the free, “Our past also proved unfortunate during the legal proceedings, in which we were accused of almost everything. An auto-da-fé,” thus demonstrating the unmentioned social repression Germans faced due to the fact that they have Aryan blood (or in Carla’s case, “Viennese Blood”). Indeed, the girls, especially Carla, cannot get over their nostalgia for the Nazi era, but not because of the slaughtering of Jews or their experiences as former Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) girls, but because they found personal happiness via past romantic flings. A trio of tragic philistines, the three women, being self-centered exhibitionists at stark contrast with the martial order of the Third Reich, are nothing more than mere victims of circumstances who, despite their decided decadence and hyper hedonism, ironically face more persecution from the 'peace-spreading' Americans than the authoritarian Aryans, thus acting in antagonistic contradiction, albeit in a cleverly campy form, to the ‘official’ history of the Second World War, thus making Schroeter's Der Bomberpilot, aside from the Wagernian celluloid epics of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King, Hitler: A Film from Germany), one of the most politically subversive works of German New Cinema as a film that makes nil groveling apologies for the infamous legacy of the Third Reich, but, instead, seeks to discredit history altogether via preposterous personalization of through three women who care more about their hair than how many Jews Uncle Adolf had liquidated in Auschwitz.

 Originally made for television, Der Bomberpilot was apparently a huge hit among kraut leftists, but director Werner Schroeter, who was not a huge fan of the film himself, was rather apathetic by the positive response to his subversive Nazi revue girl flick, even if it stands, at least in my opinion, as one of the most underrated and relatively unconventional films in the filmmaker’s cinematic oeuvre as an incendiary indictment of American's fond memory of turning the Fatherland into its cuckold bitch boy.  Indeed, it's no coincidence that an American bomber pilot sexually defiles two of the girls in Der Bomberpilot, even symbolically severely injuring one of the girl's wombs after suffering a miscarriage caused by the alien seed of what would have been a racial bastard of a baby, as America has yet to recognize its never discussed war crimes of firebombing the cities of Dresden and Hamburg—an act with no military objective that was done solely to kill large percentages of the German civilian population—which like the holocaust, Schroeter makes no mention of in the film.  Indeed, it is no coincidence that towards the end of his career that Schroeter would direct the documentary Die Königin - Marianne Hoppe (2000) aka The Queen—a documentary about the bisexual German actress Marianne Hoppe who was quite popular during the Third Reich due to her perceived Nordic beauty—as the subject of the film, not unlike the protagonists of Der Bomberpilot, was a victim of circumstance and her own genetic pulchritude who, despite her personal disdain for the Third Reich and lecherous libertine lifestyle and affinity for degenerate art, would always be remembered as a 'Nazi actress,' just as Schroeter would suffer the undesirable fate of being regarded as a post-Nazi 'German director.' In fact, Schroeter even once went so far as stating, “I have no intention whatsoever of playing a leading part [in the New German Cinema], and submit to the expectations of producing Kulturscheisse [literally, Cultureshit], even if it may be true that I carry around with me and into my films the past of this Kulturscheisse,” and no other film in his oeuvre better expresses this ambivalent attitude than Der Bomberpilot—the director's first and final statement on the National Socialist question and how such historical infamy has weighed down heavily on every German, not just filmmaker's, lives.  As the girls of Der Bomberpilot learned, no matter how 'American' they tried to be (something Schroeter's cinematic compatriot Wim Wenders spent his entire life trying to achieve but ultimately failed doing), the average American still sees a Nazi in every kraut.  After all, who can differentiate between a German and a Nazi after watching a Mel Brooks film like The Producers (1968) or a Steven Spielberg flick like Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) or Saving Private Ryan (1998)?!

-Ty E

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