Aug 1, 2014
While the Allies, especially the Americans, have gone to great pains to present themselves as flawless angel-like heroes who saved the world from the Great Satan Adolf Hitler and his demonic armies of kosher-baby-eating killer krauts, they also committed their fair share of crime and atrocities against humanity, especially of the aesthetic sort, as while the Nazis are constantly criticized for looting art, the Yanks and Brits intentionally destroyed ancient cities, cultural landmarks, and especially contemporary neo-classical statues like true jealous and opportunistic barbarians who finally got to achieve their depraved dream to wipe out the great cultural legacy that their own philistine nations lacked. Indeed, aside from the firebombing of Dresden, which was the brainchild of bloated alcoholic Winston Churchill and done with the quite questionable intention of merely spreading terror and chaos in already war-ravaged Germany, destroying an ancient city (which, being old, was largely made of wood and thus easy to incinerate), and senselessly killing mostly innocent civilians, the Allies perpetrated countless other crimes that are not that well known, including the destruction of over 90% of German sculptor Arno Breker’s public works. As a man whose ancient Greek inspired neo-classical sculptures reflected the strength, beauty, and godlike essence that was officially endorsed by National Socialism, Breker naturally found his work to be the target of Allied resentment yet, somewhat suprisingly, he was partly rehabilitated after the Second World War and in 1946 was even offered a commission by Joseph Stalin of all people. Of course, as a personal friend of Jean Cocteau who created busts of people ranging from Jewish poet Heinrich Heine to alpha-surrealist Salvador Dalí, Breker was not exactly a true believer in the Nazi cause and in the artsy fartsy documentary Zeit der Götter (1992) aka Age of the Gods director Lutz Dammbeck attempted to find out what made the sculptor transform into a budding modernist/avant-gardist into one of the most powerful artists in the world as the “official state sculptor” of the Third Reich who was commissioned in 1938 to redesign Berlin as the “World Capital GERMANIA.” Part of Dammbeck’s rather idiosyncratic four-part “Kunst & Macht” art documentary series which is, in turn, part of the director’s Heiner Müller-inspired “Herakles-Konzept” (aka “Hercules Concept”)—a highly personalized multi-media theory that began in 1982 and utilizes paintings, collages, installations, films and other artistic mediums—Age of the Gods is an exceedingly ambitious (and thus somewhat convoluted) work that largely uses the life and work of Breker as a pretext to discuss the modernist influence of National Socialist art, the corruption of an artist by the prospect of power, and the strange occult influences that gave birth to both the National Socialist Weltanschauung and aesthetic. Directed by a seemingly apolitical auteur from the communist GDR who seems more interested in provocative mysteries from German art history than pedantically preaching about how innately evil Breker’s Uncle Adolf approved statues are, Age of the Gods is a work of art in and of itself that demonstrates that Teutonic art history is not exactly as transparent as whiny left-wing art historians would have you believe.
Age of the Gods begins with the story of an unnamed kraut sculptor from an old town in Prague who became the Minister of Fine Arts for the GDR after the Second World War and was commissioned to create the largest Stalin sculpture in the world, only to later kill himself after coming to the realization that he, “betrayed his youthful artistic ideals to this power” and failed to become an heir to “all the sculptors in his country’s history” (of course he failed, as he was a cuckold of communism and thus a traitor to himself and his country's history). Of course, this unnamed sculptor’s tragic story somewhat superficially parallels that of Arno Breker who was seduced by Adolf Hitler when the Führer apparently said to the sculptor in 1936, “Young man, from now on you will only work for me.” Of course, as the doc reveals, Breker always had an interest in both romantic and völkisch Teutonic ideals as demonstrated by the fact that he was a member of the Wandervogel and was once heavily inspired by listening to Teutonic philosopher Ludwig Klages—a member of the Stefan George circle who was certainly no friend of the Jews—read from his work Man and Earth, in which is described by Dammbeck as, “an appeal to revolt against Nihilism…an invocation of the Germanic and pagan gods which progress, capitalism, and Christianity work to defeat.” As Dammbeck describes, Breker ultimately broke with a played-out 200 year artistic tradition that started with the French Revolution that attempted to depict the so-called “equality of the people” via statues, as the National Socialist sculptor apparently had, “another vision, something more ancient, more powerful rooted far back in history…not always visible, but always present.”
Ironically, according to Breker’s main model Gustav Stuhrk, it was Breker’s Greek wife Mimina who convinced the sculptor in 1935 to begin creating neo-classical works and get involved with the “national wave in Germany,” as so-called “Gothic Expressionism” had been labelled a degenerate art. In no time, Uncle Adolf discovered Breker’s art and had Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels look around Berlin for the mysterious young man whose sculptures he greatly admired. As Dammbeck subjectively narrates, by 1938, “Breker, now a Nazi party member, is on his way to the top but he has no theme anymore. He and his art are now part of a mighty machine, attempting to redesign the whole world, in conjunction with the vision of the return of the gods.” Indeed, Breker’s transformation into an artistic god is most apparent in an infamously iconic photo from June 23, 1940 of Breker posing with Hitler and architect Albert Speer in conquered Paris, which Demmback describes as follows: “Before a suggestive backdrop, Hitler, Speer, and Breker imitate a scene from antiquity: Hitler as the successful general, Pericles. Left: Albert Speer as building master Iktenus. Right: the sculptor Arno Breker as his new Phidias…from now on sworn to the future ruler of the world.” As the documentary makes quite clear, Breker seemed more interested in hanging out with his fellow artists than conquering the world, as he befriended frog sculptors Charles Despiau and Aristide Maillol and started an enduring friendship with poet/filmmaker Jean Cocteau during his stay in Paris in 1942. Cocteau and Breker also went to a private screening of Carmen (1944) starring the former’s rather Aryan-looking boyfriend Jean Marais, whose life was saved by the German sculptor. Indeed, as Marais himself describes in the documentary, he was arrested after beating up a Nazi-collaborator journalist who worked for the Gestapo and if it were not for Breker’s influence, he might have met a grizzly end at the hands of the Gestapo. Interestingly, Marais, who had a rather Aryan appearance, starred in the Vichy era Cocteau adaptation L'éternel retour (1943) aka The Eternal Return, which is a modernist take on Tristan und Isolde that some viewers felt had Nazi undertones.
Undoubtedly, one of the more interesting segments of Age of the Gods is an interview with German Conservative Revolutionary novelist Ernst Jünger who, on top of being almost a centenarian at the age of 97 at the time he was interviewed, is featured sporting a goofy Japanese button-up shirt featuring dragon designs that is quite in contrast to his dubious reputation as an elitist ‘nazi artistocrat.’ Ultimately, the novelist sums up Breker better than anyone else in the doc by remarking, “The political doesn’t interest me in an artist…only the artistic. What political bend he has…is absolutely secondary in comparison. I don’t agree with everything Breker did, especially not the very large things, but I’ve always felt that he’s very capable.” Jünger, who once sat for 8 days for the sculptor for a bust that was made of him, also compliments Breker’s sensitivity as an artist by stating, “I suppose, the bust he did of me is good. I have to rely on my wife there. She said, he’d captured elements which were only familiar to her. One has to extract the best of a person. I tried to with Breker too. I’ve always had a heart for persecuted persons.” Jünger also concludes that Breker was naïve about the war and National Socialism, remarking that if the sculptor had realized Germany was involved in a ‘Weltburgerkrieg’ (global civil war) as opposed to a national war during the Second World War that, “he may’ve made figures like Harmodios and Aristogeiton, that is the Greek figure, where two heroes kill a tyrant.”
Despite revolving around the life and work of Arno Breker, Ages of the Gods is ultimately a work that is more about whether one can separate the aesthetic from the political, especially in regard to a disgraced/blacklisted artist, as well work about the timeless dichotomy of opportunism versus autonomy among artists, than a traditional biographical documentary. Additionally, auteur Lutz Dammbeck also uses the documentary to propose various theories and speculation, including that Uncle Adolf may have had gay love for the sculptor. Indeed, during one scene in the doc, the following 1942 diary entry by Jean Cocteau is read by the director: “When Hindenburg worked with Hitler, he became totally attached to him. When Hitler went to Munich, Hindenburg never slept until he had a call from Hitler. So is was with Hitler and Breker: He asks him to drive carefully. He loves him. He is his adoptive son, like Jeannot for me.” The documentary also reveals that in 1990 Breker helped found a seemingly homoerotic neo-Männerbünde group called the ‘Alexander Order’ with frog fag novelist/diplomat Roger Peyrefitte and Austrian Jewish painter Ernst Fuchs that was dedicated to the “glory of male genius and beauty in the spirit of eternal antiquity.” The documentary also goes on a number of bizarre and seemingly random tangents about proto-Nazi occult groups and occultists like the Thule Society and Lanz von Liebenfels. Interestingly, the doc features rare footage of an SS expedition to Tibet and other Ahnenerbe expeditions, as well as random references to SS man Otto Rahn’s failed attempts to locate the Holy Grail in Southern France. Unfortunately, Dammbeck also attempts to associate Conservative Revolutionaries Ernst Jünger and German poet Stefan George with the same anti-humanistic aesthetic trend that led to National Socialism, as if they are also culpable for the holocaust despite the fact that both men rejected the Third Reich. In fact, towards the end of the documentary, the director interviews fairly unknown and rather eccentric contemporary German völkisch poet Rolf Schilling, who collaborated with Breker on a poetry book, in a fashion that seems like a rather pathetic way to discredit the sculptor. Quite ironically, both Jünger and a typically boorish Soviet officer agree that Breker’s art totally transcends its political connotations.
At the conclusion of Age of the Gods, director Dammbeck narrates the following words in a pseudo-sinister fashion as if to warn Germans about some imaginary Luciferian National Socialist uprising: “The attempt to realize the vision of the return of the gods failed politically in 1945. The artist Arno Breker, who had served this vision, also failed. The building blocks of this vision remained, to be reconstituted at will. ‘Giants and Titans grow first in the dawn’ says Ernst Jünger. Are the old gods returning today, after an interim period?” Interestingly, the last couple of minutes of the documentary features grainy footage of one of Breker’s lost sculptures that was trashed by the Allies after the Second World War being salvaged from a lake in a somewhat silly scene that insinuates that the old Germanic gods are rising from the abyss for the first time since 1945. Naturally, one must take into consideration that the doc was made around the time of the German reunification, so many Teutons had fears regarding the future of Deutschland that ultimately proved to have no basis in reality. Of course, Germany has only become all the more socially and culturally degenerate since Age of the Gods was first released over two decades ago, so it is rather unlikely that the nation will produce another Hitler or Breker anytime soon. Describing his “Herakles-Konzept” as an attempt to present, “a cybernetic concept, an endless loop made up of guilt, and violence, and attempted disintegration,” Dammbeck certainly proves with the documentary that he has the sort of nihilistic and self-flagellating psychology that is quite typical of post-WWII Germans, albeit to a lesser degree (indeed, it seems Western Germans are much more screwed up in that regard), so the Breker flick must be viewed as a collection of wrongly assembled yet nonetheless provocative puzzle pieces that were put together by a figurative blind man. Indeed, maybe if contemporary Germans looked to the aesthetics of masters like Breker, Jünger, and George instead of celebrating the senseless extermination of their grandparents in firebombings like the distinctly degenerate and exceedingly ethno-masochistic pro-Zionist ‘Antideutsch’ movement does, then the Teutonic people might survive to see the next century. Undoubtedly, for those individuals with even the slightest interest in German art history and/or the Third Reich, Age of the Gods, as well as the other three documentaries in Dammbeck's Kunst & Macht series, makes for mandatory viewing. After all, what other documentary can boast featuring an elderly Ernst Jünger speaking kind words regarding Breker while sporting an eccentric Jap shirt?!
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:31 AM
Soiled Sinema 2007 - 2013. All rights reserved. Best viewed in Firefox and Chrome.