John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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I was on a Munchhausen kick, and I often like to go down weird historical rabbitholes, and I've had fascism on the brain lately, so, when I learned that there was a lavish version of Munchhausen from Nazi Germany, I wanted to watch it, pretty much right after re-watching the Gilliam version.
What does one say? Unlike perhaps most other Nazi films of the era, if someone put this film on for you without telling you it was a Nazi film, you probably wouldn't guess. Watching it knowing that gives an eerie aspect to certain parts of it.
Watching it right after Gilliam, it's hard not to compare and contrast. For Gilliam, the adjectives that come to mind might be: whimsical, mirthful, quixotic, bizarre. None of those adjectives would apply to Baky's Munchhausen. Gilliam's Munchausen is an incorrigible flirt, and the ladies love him; Baky's Munchhausen is a more hard-driving ladies man, who gets what he wants and is fairly indifferent to the consequences. He rescues a Venetian lady from the Turks, and takes her home, where they proceed to shack up. Her brother is offended, and attacks their home, kidnapping her and committing her to a nunnery. The Baron goes to visit her, and suggests he will rescue her; but she says that happiness is always fleeting, and they should say goodbye. In a Hollywood movie, this would certainly be a setup for him to rescue her! But instead, he accepts what she says and leaves her to rot unhappily in the nunnery! But he does go ahead and fight a nihilistic duel with her brother! The baron wins, of course, and the brother is humiliated, suggesting he will have to commit suicide!
This movie was intended as national escapism during the latter part of the war, but it's easy to see in a scene like this these kind of Nazi-era / post-Wagnerian themes of fate, struggle, and the death drive.
Earlier, the Baron seems to be more evenly matched with Catherine the Great; they are equals: manipulators who enjoy (using?) people in their lives and dispense with them with relative ease. He is expelled from the city after fighting another nihilistic, pointless duel with one of Catherine's generals, who ends up being a persistent rival who literally launches the Baron into captivity. Possible to see echoes of inter-Nazi party purges there.
The movie is a story within a story, and the frame suggests that the baron's descendant may be following in the his footsteps, romancing another young lady only to escape when the truth is known. Instead, he ends up accepting fate in a different way, which promises to be more gentle -- finally accepting "natural" aging and eventual death at the side of his beloved wife. Again the thematic here of a death drive, but one of acceptance of the course of nature, aging, the power of marital love, and finally returning home over the former urges of womanizing, adventure, nihilistic duels, and unnaturally prolonged youth and virility. (But what overtones must "coming home to die after the end of the adventures" have held, in Germany, in 1943?)
Gilliam plays the fantastic nature of what is happening around Munchausen with a sense of wonder; in Baky's version, clothes that bark like dogs and horns that play by themselves seem queer, terrible, and frightening, and they are beaten to death in short order. Baky's Baron himself seems to have little use for magic or fantasy; he is a fast-living, hard-driving realist to whom fantastic things sometimes happen. He shrugs and goes on. He is contrasted, early in the film, with the sorcerer Cagliostro, who does love fantasy and illusion. Cagliostro would use these to gain power, which has no interest for the Baron, who simply lusts after experience, adventure, and romance. (In this sense the Baron does not seem like much of a Nazi. In fact, he spends most of his career on escapist adventures while postponing the responsibilities of home and producing an heir. It seems that he never has rectified this.)
The baron and his wife cut quite an odd couple in the frame story, especially once the truth is revealed: non-reproductive, him unnaturally preserved despite being hundreds of years old, almost gothic or even slightly vampiric, by the end, in aspect. The young girl who was so magnetized by his charm in the beginning flees in fear, by the end, returning to the promised, "normal, reproductive" embrace of her rather boring and unremarkable fiance. Though returning home for an old age in the mansion of his youth, the baron's life choices render him ill-equipped to symbolize the nation or the Volk. Instead, this veteran of adventures, wars, and nihilistic struggles finds some remnant of his humanity in his final acceptance of age, humility, and the solidity of the marital bond.
The baron's servant, Christian Kuchenreutter, is rather the reproductive one here, with a brace of kids, several of whom are referred to as "souvenirs" of his previous, short visits home. Kuchenreutter and another servant, the runner, both die sad and in some sense meaningless deaths in mid-adventure.
I'm not sure that there's anything much to say about the not-at-all subversive Orientalism of the Ottoman harem in this depiction. A gross, grabby Turkish sultan and his generals; cowed African and Mongol (?) servants; a giggly eunuch; absurd, poofy, thoroughly ugly costumes for the military; and a proud, European woman, held as slave, in the harem, who refuses to submit. (To the Turk, that is; she happily submits to the baron's charms later.)
I suppose what Gilliam does is to take this kind of depiction of the Ottoman court, put it on steroids, and leave it at that. Whether that is sufficient for yuks, satire of stereotypes, or any kind of inversion, I am not sure.
I'm not sure this is a film that really stands on its own independent of historical context (or should). But it is pretty interesting as an example of cinematic "escapism" in Nazi cinema that ultimately doesn't really escape.
A daring and crazy adventure long before its time.
Surprisingly good for something commissioned by Nazi Goebbels in his envy over Allied film fantasy spectacles like The Wizard of Oz (and maybe THief of Bagdad 1941 also), but still not quite up to the same level. At least the propaganda here isn't as obnoxiously omnipresent as in their rather laughable & deranged Brit-bashing Titanic movie.
Not a kids film; sumptuous production values; a fine example of fantasy film making.
This pleasant fantasy is most notable for being a product of WWII Germany. It might be considered propaganda in the sense that it portrays the Baron as handsome and resourceful, but it feels nothing like a pro-war film. It was ordered to be made by Joseph Goebbels, but a blacklisted writer, Erich Kastner, wrote it with an air of melancholy and even a hint of pacifism. (The Barom shows open disinterest in conquest.) It's very well produced with a pastel-like colors. A must for any fan of Terry Gilliam's later film.
Joseph Goebbels wanted to make a film that could compete with the likes of "The Wizard of OZ" and this was the end result. The Nazi propaganda is not as overt in this film compared to many others of the era, but it is clearly present. If you can remove the film from it's horrible context, it's actually a pretty entertaining fantasy film.
I totally understand why Terry Gilliam saw this movie and said, I totally have to remake this in English!!!!
Commissioned in 1942 by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and with a script written by banned author Erich Kastner, the last thing you'd expect from Munchhausen is a charming little escapist fantasy, and yet that's exactly what you get. Baron Hieronymus Von Munchhausen flits across Europe, seducing Catherine the Great and engaging in duels with irate noblemen before a magician gives him a ring which will turn him invisible for one hour, and also grants him one wish. Munchhausen wishes to remain the "age I am now, for as long as I wish to be", and thus is granted immortality. His companions also have extraordinary powers: one has built a musket which can hit a target one hundred miles away, while the other can run hundreds of miles in an hour, without even getting winded. Munchhausen is captured by the Ottomans when the cannonball he's riding crashes into the palace. They escape by hot air balloon and travel to the moon, where they meet a race of humans who can detach their heads from their bodies. Somehow Munchhausen makes Terry Gilliam's re-make, "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" seem sensible. It's an absurdist fantasy that's almost like an acid trip without the acid. Technically, the sets, the costumes, even the color technique used (agfacolor) are some of the best of any time period, and there is an interesting combination of mischief and poetry to the Baron's character, thanks to a great scrip. Surprisingly, there's quite a bit of nudity in this film (at least it seems like alot for 1943), and the Baron isn't shy in his seductions of the ladies. Munchhausen is quite an interesting piece of history, from many angles, and something I'd recommend to any fans of Gilliam's film.
Good, but not overly great telling of the Munchausen story here. Hans A|lber takes the role, and he's pretty good as the adventurer. The special effects are fun and the color cinematography is outstanding. Unfortunately, it's way way too talky, and therefore gets boring in a lot of spots, so feel free to have your fast forward button ready, because it may be wise.