Book Review: Nazi Film Melodrama


by Laura Heins

Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013. Pp. x, 242. Illus., notes, biblio, index. $30.00 paper. ISBN: 0252079353

German Popular Film under the Nazi Regime

In a ground breaking work Prof. Heins (UVa) demonstrates that the most popular motion picture genre under the Nazi regime was not war or propaganda films, as one might expect, but rather domestic and romantic melodramas.  There are many surprises in her analysis, which, after an introduction is divided into broad chapters, giving us

  • A comparison between German and Hollywood melodrama
  • Romance and sex in contemporary German melodrama
  • Domestic life as depicted in film
  • The Home Front under siege in film

Heins observes that films often were in conflict with official Nazi ideology.  For example, they frequently were “much more permissive about desire and sexuality” than the regime’s ideological preferences, and certainly when in comparison with contemporary American films, in part because the regime viewed the films as furthering the war effort.  She also notes that Goebbels was a rather astute film critic, once even criticizing a picture because it was too overtly patriotic, one of a number of other surprises in the book.

An epilogue gives the reader an overview of the revival of the German film industry in the postwar years, beginning with the rather curious “Rubble film” genre, in which the plots are to some extent intertwined in the ruin that was everywhere in Germany.

Although not directly about the war or military matters, Nazi Film Melodrama will be of particular interest to students of war films, as German servicemen and the Second World War form the backdrop of most of these pictures.  

Note:  Nazi Film Melodrama is also available in hardcover, $80, ISBN 978-0-252-03774-0, and as an ebook, ISBN 978-0-252-09502-3

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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