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The Architecture of Doom
The Architecture of Doom
Actors: Rolf Arsenius, Bruno Ganz, Sam Gray, Josef Goebbels, P.L. Troost
Director: Peter Cohen
Genres: Indie & Art House, Educational, Documentary, Military & War
NR     2000     1hr 59min

Featuring never-before-seen film footage of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, The Architecture of Doom captures the inner workings of the Third Reich and illuminates the Nazi aesthetic in art, architecture and popular cult...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Rolf Arsenius, Bruno Ganz, Sam Gray, Josef Goebbels, P.L. Troost
Director: Peter Cohen
Genres: Indie & Art House, Educational, Documentary, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Educational, Biography, History, Military & War
Studio: First Run Features
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 03/14/2000
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1999
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 1hr 59min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Swedish
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

How A Longing For Beauty Turned Ugly
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I've seen a lot of documentaries about Nazi Germany, and this one is as good as it gets. By the end, I definitely had a deeper understanding of that ultimate question: "How could the Holocaust possibly have happened?" This film really shows you how beautiful and exciting the Third Reich was, how easy it must have been to get caught up in its inertia. ... Usually, documentaries such as this show only tiny little clips from Nazi propaganda, but "Architecture of Doom" shows more footage, enough for one to be able to grasp how racism could be encouraged and reinforced via public service announcements about health and hygiene.

This film also opened my eyes to how intelligent and talented Adolf Hitler was. In spite of a critical narrative that described his paintings and the design of the Berghof, you can see from his work that he was not the simple "wallpaper hanger" of popular myth. To understand how the German people could have followed him so loyally into total destruction, I think it is important to be able to see him in this light."
Hitler's mission to "beautify" Germany through violence
Christopher Crossley | Wuhan, Hubei Province, China | 07/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Several key points underpin Hitler's "mission" for the German people in this documentary directed by Peter Cohen: the need to make Germany racially clean, the need to make the ethnically Aryan people realise that they were always meant to be the dominant race in the world, and the need to make the German state the greatest in the world. Hitler's campaign in this respect was, so the film alleges, essentially civilian, but under a military guise.

The two-hour film opens with an aerial view of what is purported to be a German village, yet the background story concerns questions about what Hitler's racial theories and policies actually meant in practice. The Holocaust, in which six million Jews were exterminated during World War II, was merely the latest episode in a campaign of "ethnic cleansing", which had actually started back in the 1930s after Hitler had come to power. The focus was initially on the mentally ill and the deformed, but it later widened to include the Jews as "the microbe" which was allegedly responsible for "infecting" Europe, not just with their genes, but with their own ideas about art.

Propaganda films, which feature heavily in this film, essentially proselytize the German people into believing that the mentally ill, the retarded and the Jews were infestations that had to be eradicated. To this end, hideous methods were devised to "euthanise" the targets, whose families were lied to about the true nature of their deaths.

The death camps were the ultimate expression of Hitler's eugenics programme, yet the term could well be applied to the artistic depiction of the "perfect" Aryan, particularly through sculpture at the hands of people like Arno Breker. Through art exhibitions held every year, he wanted the German people to see what direction they should be taking, as he believed that art, his own former profession at which he ultimately failed, was one of the most significant props to his political regime. In order to emphasize the gulf between "pure" German art and those of "undesirables", he deliberately had works by the mentally ill displayed in so-called "Degenerate Art" exhibitions, albeit in separate locations.

As stated in the title, the term, "architecture", is prominent, though it appears that it is not as prominent in the purest sense of the word. His unbelievably ambitious plans for Berlin and the Austrian city of Linz are highlighted, including the relative absurdity of his receiving the final plans for a regenerated Linz, which would have included a gigantic museum of the arts, just three months before the end of the war in Europe. In this movie, we see Hitler's fleeting visit to Paris (then just conquered) very early on a June morning in 1940, where his mission was to look at the city's art treasures, including the Opera. It is even claimed that Hitler was so familiar with the plans of the building that he even noticed that an ante-chamber was actually missing; apparently, it had been eliminated during a renovation programme. The German conquest of Greece in June 1941 is also shown; Hitler envisioned a state that would be a hybrid of ancient Greece, ancient Rome and Sparta. Indeed, he considered Sparta to be the most ethnically pure state in ancient history.

The attack on the USSR later in June 1941 and the onset of the coming Russian winter in November allegedly turned the tide of the war against Germany, and even this received artistic expression when pictures drawn from the front highlighted the hardships of the German army fighting in the USSR. The overall war situations are given scant coverage, given the subject matter of the film, yet they are nevertheless put into their proper context. Hitler knew that defeat was inevitable, yet he actually looked forward to Germany's fiery defeat, reminiscent of what had happened to Carthage during the Punic Wars. The film claims that Hitler's war strategy may have been blighted by his apparent obsession with antiquity: he was allegedly fighting a modern war with ancient war objectives, which included enslavement of conquered peoples. Even if Germany was going to be destroyed militarily, he still ordered the continuation of the "Final Solution" as he believed that a defeated Germany would therefore be left with only with the weak, since the good would have died fighting for the Reich.

Anti-Semitism was, so Hitler claimed, justified on the grounds that he saw Jews as constituting an ethnic power bloc against the Aryan race. He therefore viewed his campaign to cleanse Europe of non-Aryans as a primary reason for conducting the war, and he used films, such as "The Eternal Jew" (shot in the squalor of Polish ghettos in 1940), in his propaganda campaign. He likened the destruction of the Jews to the destruction of rats and other pests; indeed, a pest control film (made in 1938) is shown as part of the propaganda where gas is used to kill pests; that same gas ("Zyklon-B") would be used in the death camps.

Overall, since it is a documentary, the film exists to inform rather than to entertain, but it does delve deep into Hitler's psyche in order to portray a failed artist (who made architectural sketches of planned buildings well into the war) obsessed with the "mission" to make Germany a mighty state primarily through racial purity and artistic expression - and, ultimately, violence of the vilest kind imaginable.
Generally a model documentary
Alexander R. Pruss | Waco, TX USA | 02/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a superb documentary. Bold and controversial thesis. Evidence marshalled effectively. Great use of archival footage. Generally gripping and with very good pacing (occasionally there is a digression which, while important to the general line of argument, is not introduced in a way that makes the relevance immediately clear). Plus, don't you really want to know what projects seemed closest to Hitler's heart when the war was getting bogged down on the Eastern Front? Hint: They weren't military ones.

Cohen argues that the Nazi project was that of producing a better and more beautiful human being and race, a project that integrated art and the science of the day. The Nazi aesthetic was not just propaganda to get people to become committed Nazis, but was a goal in and of itself, from the earlier optimism of producing a better humanity (or at least Aryan race) to Hitler's eventual--but not unmotivated by earlier commitments--desire for an ending befiting classical tragedy.

The beginning is marvellously done. The portrayal of Nazism is so sympathetic that one is drawn in, and may even wonder if the film maker does not have Nazi sympathies. Any such wonder disappears within twenty minutes, but the film maker's ability to see what was so attractive about the Nazi project is crucial to the success of the film. In the end, one realizes that the Nazi project was evil in a way simultaneously subtler and yet deeper than one may have thought at the outset.

The film maker never draws parallels with our time. Still, the film should make one reflect on how the desires for perfect human beings and for the elimination of the imperfect are manifested now."
Superbly produced, landmark documentary survey.
Midwest Book Review | Oregon, WI USA | 05/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Taking full advantage of what the DVD format has to offer, The Architecture Of Doom is a superbly produced, critically acclaimed, landmark documentary surveying the inner working of the Nazi Third Reich in terms of art, architecture and popular culture. Hitler sought to emulate the classical art and monumental architecture of antiquity as this riveting film shows how the Nazis tried to make his amateurish design ideas into a lasting memorial to his vision of a "New German Art" of idealized Aryan images. This DVD version is enhanced with an English narration by Sam Gray, interactive menus and scene access. Highly recommended for academic and community video collections."