The sky was overcast when I began my run on Saturday morning, and midway through my route the clouds opened and drenched me with a cold rain. I’m sure I made a miserable sight as I stopped in a hardware store on the way home. Water dripped from my clothes and hair as I pulled a wadded bill from my running shorts to pay for some window caulking. This day had gotten off to a bad start.
After showering, I ground fresh coffee beans, sipped two cups of the hot, steaming liquid, and decided to scrap the list of chores I had assigned myself for that afternoon. Instead, I would go to a movie. The Chicago Film Festival was under way, and I soon found myself in a theatre watching Following the Führer, a film about the Third Reich by director Erwin Leiser. Twenty-five years after his famous film Mein Kampf, Leiser was again assuming the terrible burden of a German artist and trying to come to terms with his country’s love affair with Hitler.
Leiser himself, a stout man with a moustache, attended the premiere and explained, in accented English, why he had made the film. Mein Kampf had been built around newsclips of massive Hitler rallies and other spectacles of the Reich. But as he watched the newsreels again and again over the years, he realized that they did not portray the everyday lives of ordinary Germans. He noticed that some people simply stared blankly at the proceedings while others around them were screaming in support of everything Hitler said. He began to wonder about the individual people who attended the mass rallies in Munich and Berlin.
Thus, in his second film on Hitler’s Germany, Leiser tried to recreate everyday life. He began again with well-known newsclips: the marches and the rallies, the burning ...1
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