Architecture of Doom By Mike White. An appropriate companion piece to Where is Memory is Peter Cohen's Architecture of Doom. Both deal quite a lot in the monumental aspects of the Third Reich such as the massive statues and public displays of the Nazi Party...

An appropriate companion piece to Where is Memory is Peter Cohen's Architecture of Doom. Both deal quite a lot in the monumental aspects of the Third Reich such as the massive statues and public displays of the Nazi Party. However, whereas Gallagher's film is a narrative-documentary hybrid, Cohen's is strictly non-fictional. Cohen's approach to his film is the demonstration of how the Nazism was influenced by artistic backgrounds of its core members. Indeed, to listen to the rhetoric of the Third Reich is to hear about a Utopian society of purity, which uses the arts as an intermediary to this goal.

Sculpture, literature, painting, and architecture were all employed in the massive campaign of propaganda put forth by those in charge. One could say that propaganda became Hitler's outlet for his foiled artistic ambitions. Often he designed banners and standards himself. He provided preliminary sketches for new, grand buildings. With a nod to his love of Wagner, Hitler staged Nazi rallies as grand operatic events.

Cohen's film introduces its audience to the sinister side of Hitler's vision early on. To achieve the purity that is so valued by the Third Reich, there must be sacrifice. That includes the elimination not only of "degenerate" art (Entartete Kunst) but also of "undesirable" and "unproductive" members of society. Cohen presents "studies" which juxtaposed physically deformed people with the impressionistic works of the day. These were meant to clearly demonstrate the ties between the degeneration of the German corpus and culture. Eventually, Jews would be fingered as the instigators of this art that brought about "spiritual and intellectual depravity."

Architecture of Doom runs the risk, at times, of not doing enough to deter positive impressions of Nazism. The idealism is presented without dissent. Much of this comes from Cohen's over-reliance on presenting propaganda films without counterpoint. Intercutting The Eternal Jew with War in Miniature (a film about the problem of vermin) demonstrates all-too-well the point that the Nazis were attempting to get across and that is dangerous. Cohen relies more on the assumed abhorrence of Hitler than competent filmmaking. He dawdles far too long to draw back the curtain and show his audience the extremes of Nazism as an "artistic movement."

Eventually, Cohen harvests the seeds planted earlier in the film. The combination of the need to purify the German volk along with experiments in euthanasia and an avid love of building are demonstrated to be the major pillars that supported the Final Solution. As the tide turned in World War II and Germany began losing, the Nazis provided the image of an enemy that could be conquered, the Jews. Sketches of triumphant arches became blueprints of death camps. Pest control products were implemented on human subjects. Innocents were now enemies and beauty was said to be achievable through violence.

Though lagging in the middle section of the film with tedious recollections of annual art openings, Architecture of Doom provides yet another piece in the puzzle of the German mindset.

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