Monday, May 24, 2010

Hitler the Comedian

Several weeks ago YouTube announced that it was taking down all the parody videos of Hitler’s explosive speech to his general staff — in which Bruno Ganz channels the ghost of Hitler and does a compelling embodiment of instantaneous psychotic rage — based on claims by the creators of the film Downfall that the viral spoofs infringed their copyright in the film. Although this was, and is, rather controversial (see criticism here), the elimination of the video clips was not undertaken with anything like German efficiency, and many of the clips remain up and running, including perhaps the best clip of them all — the one where Hitler bitterly complains about all his videos being rudely yanked from the airwaves and lambasts Constantin Film AG as an ungrateful upstart conspiring against him.

Frankly, faux Hitler may have a point. Since the spate of video spoofs first appeared on the web, rentals of Downfall have dramatically increased, moving the film out of the “it was nominated for an award but now you can’t find it” category into a late-night Blockbuster favorite. Given the intrinsically dour nature of the film (which is about Hitler’s last days), one could reasonably conclude that the YouTube publicity resuscitated a film that had only been seen by (approximately) four Germans since its release in 2005.

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