8 Oct 2006

Hangmen also die

Watched Hangmen also die with my kids last weekend, a bit of solid radical Hollywood, up there with Spartacus....it's Brecht's film scripted with Fritz Lang in 1943, about the assassination of Heydrich, the hangman, Hitler's brutal governor of Czechslovakia.

Excellent cinema, Hitchcock style plots, lots of tricky political and ethical dilemmas to think about, no big Hollywood hero of course.

Here is the detail from the wiki oracle....by the way I think you can get this on rental DVD.

Hangmen Also Die was a 1943 film directed by the legendary Austrian director Fritz Lang with a script by Bertolt Brecht and John Wexley, with James Wong Howe serving as cinematographer.

On May 27, 1942, the Nazi "Reich Protector" of Nazis-occupied Prague in Bohemia and Moravia—"Hangman" Reinhard Heydrich—was assassinated by Czech resistance fighters parachuted from a British plane (Operation Anthropoid). Heydrich was the number-two man in the Nazi SS and a chief architect of the Holocaust.

Hangmen Also Die (1943) is the story of Heydrich's assassination in fictionalized form. It was Bertolt Brecht's only script for a Hollywood film: the money he earned from the project allowed him to write "The Visions of Simone Marchand, "Švejk in the Second World War" and an adaptation of Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi." Hanns Eisler was nominated for an Academy Award for his musical score. The collaboration of three prominent refugees from Nazi Germany—Lang, Brecht and Eisler—is an example of the influence this generation of German exiles had in American culture.

Please watch it if you can. The fact that someone as thoughtful as Brecht ended up in the orbit of Stalin, while other socialist cultural greats like Orwell worked with the British Foreign Office, supplying them with lists of 'reds', shows that we must all beware being sucked in by nasty historical circumstances.

Any way, great film without thinking about the politics.


Anonymous said...

Despite the episode you mention, Orwell's consistent commitment to socialism and democracy make him a far less politically and morally compromised figure than Brecht, I should think for all but nostalgic admirers of Stalinism

Derek Wall said...

Plenty of people faced with two unacceptable sides, pick one of them!

I say 'neither Moscow nor Washington' or the Socialist Workers Party.

I am, though, finding Brecht's work very interesting and provocative...any way one has to be careful on a green blog with Orwell because of his sectarian attack on the beardies and sandal wearers...not one myself but Edward Carpenter was a good thing!

Jim Jay said...

This sounds like a fantastic film - will try to get hold of a copy... the thing about orwell, brecht and everyone else is they have political development, and it doesn't happen in a vacuum.

Orwell's final episode happened in very specific circumstances and on the heels of his utter disillusionment in the CP. Difficult to blame him for that.

As for Brecht when the masses rose up against the bureaucracy he choose the right side to wave a flag for. He was even excluded from a reception given in his own honour due to his disreputable behaviour (in East Germany)

And he never actually joined the CP only supported it when it fought for workers rights - I don't think we should try to look at historical figures trying to count the spots on the bed linen but try to take from them the enormous positives and lessons they have to teach us.

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