Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Directed by: Lutz Hachmeister.
Written by: Lutz Hachmeister & Michael Kloft.
Director of Photography: Hajo Schomerus.
Edited by: Guido Krajewski.
Music by: Hubert Bittman.
Released by: First Run.
Language: with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Germany/UK/Canada. 107 min. Not Rated.
Narrated by Kenneth Branagh.

The diary of Nazi propaganda mastermind Joseph Goebbels comes to life as actor Kenneth Branagh narrates from Goebbels’ personal journal, beginning in 1924 when Goebbels "still hadn't found a real purpose in life," and ending in 1945 with the collapse of Nazi Germany, all the while accompanied by archival footage and Nazi propaganda.

Despite its revealing first person perspective, the documentary is really a vague timeline of Goebbels' rise to power, ending with the fall of the Reich. Interwoven are his inconsistent views of the Führer (“Hitler has broken his word five times”). But Director Lutz Hachmeister relies almost solely on Goebbels' diary, and as a result, the documentary fails to provide the analytical and careful study this subject deserves. We never learn the inner-workings of Goebbels' propaganda machine, and therefore, we don't see the critical role it played in facilitating the rise of Hitler. There’s footage of German students burning books that were considered filthy and un-German, but no explanation or detailed account of how Goebbels' propaganda campaign achieved this ignition of nationalistic spirit. This shortcoming is consistent throughout; we observe the result of propaganda, but not the process, and thus, we aren't exposed to its danger.

To the director’s credit, The Goebbels Experiment distinguishes itself by attempting to find the correlation between Goebbels' self-pity and his conviction in the superiority of the Aryan race. The film provocatively suggests Goebbels' lust to control public opinion was a projection of his own self-loathing after being rejected as child. Even this fascinating psychological inquiry falls short. Following the timeline is too high a priority. When the film is over, we are left wondering what exactly the Goebbels experiment was. Timothy Small
August 12, 2005



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