AIRFORCE AMAZONS by Kellie Strom


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PROPAGANDA ++

BIG BROTHER KELLIE STRØM TELLS YOU WHAT TO THINK.

In this issue: What to think about Baron Blimp and Colonel Münchhausen!



big brother

In 1943 two spectacular colour features were released, one in Nazi Germany and the other in Britain. The writers of these opposing propaganda films were friends who had worked together before the war, and who would continue their friendship and artistic collaboration after the war's end.

Münchhausen
Written by Erich Kästner, directed by Josef von Baky.

The Life And Death of Colonel Blimp
Written by Emeric Pressburger, directed by Michael Powell


These are two very different films. 'Münchhausen' sets out to distract its German audience from the difficulties of war with frothy fantasy, while 'Blimp' attempts to tackle core issues of how Britain is fighting the war.

The German film 'Münchhausen' was written under a pseudonym by Erich Kästner, a writer banned from publishing in Nazi Germany. The British film 'Blimp' was advertised with the blurb 'See The Banned Film', but was never actually banned in Britain, despite very strong resistance to the production from James Grigg, Secretary of State for War, and from Churchill himself.

Muenchhausen and the Sultan

MÜNCHHAUSEN

PRODUCED for the Ufa Film Studio's 25th anniversary, 'Münchhausen' was the result of Goebbels' desire to produce a spectacle to match the best Hollywood had to offer. However in seeking a subject the director appointed with the task, Josef von Baky, turned to Kästner, and it was Kästner who suggested offering Germany's greatest liar, Goebbels, a film of literature's greatest liar, Baron Münchhausen.

Like 'Blimp' the tale is told through an extended flashback as the Baron tells of his very long life, of his affair with Catherine the Great of Russia, his magical dealings with the sinister Count Cagliostro, his flight on a cannonball, his rescue of a Venetian princess from a Turkish harem, and his voyage to the moon.

Some film writers suggest that 'Münchhausen' has little or no propaganda content, but the lavishness of its display at the height of war was its main propaganda purpose. However it may also be possible to find counter-propaganda in Kästner's script.

For example, there is a speech where the Baron is described as a Copernican man, one who is constantly aware of his humble place in the universe, and who because of this is human.

And there is the episode where Count Cagliostro tempts Münchhausen with a scheme to seize power, first in Courland (Latvia), then Poland. The Baron turns him down with the reply: 'We two will never see eye to eye on the main thing. You want to rule; I want to live.'

Count Cagliostro tempts the Baron

But perhaps most striking is the section set in Venice, a depiction of repressive state power. Casanova warns the Baron and his lover Princess Isabella to 'Take care, the inquisitors have ten thousand eyes and limbs. Venice has the power to do right and wrong as she pleases.'

Also in this section, there is a scene which perhaps displays Kästner's discomfort in his position, as the Doge of Venice says to the Balloonist Monsieur Blanchard, 'I welcome your intended flight. We serve science, and amuse the people. It's part of a statesman's art to do one thing and achieve two.' Blanchard says 'I serve only science,' and the Doge replies 'Retain that superstition. It's a card in our hand.'

Blanchard and the Doge

If 'Münchhausen' may be seen as a Nazi film with a hidden message of liberalism and humility, then what about 'Blimp,' a British film with a liberal anti-establishment reputation gained largely as a result of the enemies it made in the war cabinet?

On the next page:
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP

And after that:
PRESSBURGER AND KÄSTNER:
life, work, and friendship.


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