Evil on the Screen: Cinematic Representation of Adolf Hitler

Alexander Pichugin (German Language and Culture Studies)

This seminar is open to any student interested in history, politics, and the cinema. It introduces students to the cinematic representation of one of the most infamous figures of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and Chancellor of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Hitler has been represented in cinema from his early years as Führer. His representations range from portraits aiming at historical accuracy to allegorical images of absolute evil to comic parodies. Since the end of World War II, representations of Hitler, both serious and satirical, have continued to be prominent in cinema, sometimes generating significant controversy. In the introductory part of the seminar, students will explore Hitler as a historical figure and his role in the establishment of the Nazi regime. The main part of the seminar will be devoted to in-depth analyses of selected films representing Hitler, focusing on different cinematic aspects of representation as well as on different functions the image of Hitler fulfills in different films. By studying different films representing Hitler, students will gain insights into a broader context of ideas and discourses that have shaped contemporary culture. The different films will be approached as both cultural artifacts and cinematic documents. We will explore various interpretative techniques (iconic analysis, semiotic interpretation, shot-by-shot analysis) and learn to define and apply essential film terminology.