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.