Movie Information

In Brief: Kolberg (1945) is famous — or more properly, notorious — as Josef Goebbels' massively expensive propaganda flop. The idea behind this yarn about the town of Kolberg organizing a resistance front to Napoleon's army was that it was going to put the fight back into the German people. Well, not only was it too late, but it turned out to be such a downer that Goebbels found himself stuck with a gigantic turkey on his hands. (This would soon be the least of his worries.) He not only poured limitless funds into the movie, but he brought soldiers home from the front to appear as extras. (Who knows, the making of this movie may have shortened WWII and saved lives.) And for all that money and his dreams of making a movie to rival Gone with the Wind, what did he get? A big, lumbering behemoth of a costume picture. It's undeniably huge, and it's often nice to look at, but it's more a curio than anything else.
Genre: Propaganda Drama
Director: Veit Harlan
Starring: Heinrich George, Kristina Söderbaum, Horst Caspar, Gustav Diessl, Paul Wegener
Rated: NR



Apart from its size — which is mostly a matter of seemingly endless dress extras — and its notoriety as the Nazi film industry’s propaganda attempt to make a kind of Gone Mit Der Wind that was intended to convince the German people to fight to the last man while the Reich crumbled around them, the most notable thing about Kolberg is how stodgy it is. I don’t mean the comic bookish dialogue that, by its very nature, is more interest in planting its “die for the glory of the fatherland” ideology over telling a story. That’s kind of to be expected. No, I mean the technical side of the movie. This is a 1945 color film, but cinematically it’s not much more interesting than a D.W. Griffith one-reeler from 1912 — something that suggests an almost complete misunderstanding of the very Hollywood moviemaking they wanted to emulate.




From a cinema standpoint, probably the most interesting thing is the appearance of the great Paul Wegener, albeit in a somewhat thankless role that mostly calls for him to sneer at the efforts of the people to turn themselves into soldiers. He’s older and there are certainly more lines on his face than in his silent movie days when he was a force to be reckoned with both in front of and behind the camera, but he’s immediately recognizable. In fact, when he puts on his hat, he still bears a striking resemblance to his most famous creation, the Golem. This, by the way, is not the only piece of a Nazi propaganda made by director Veit Harlan. In fact, Harlan was responsible for the infamous anti-Jewish film Jew Suss (1940), and he was tried twice — and acquitted both times (mostly on the “only following orders” defense) — for war crimes.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Kolberg Sunday, Mar. 22, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.