Eroticization of Fascist Aesthetics

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Text interpretation of Susan Sontag's Fascinating Fascism, a critical essay within "Under the Sign of Saturn".
Course presentation for Politics and Myths, Sciences-Po, Paris, April 19, 2010.

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  • A very interesting slideshow. A class I assist was looking at this essay and another--I think you did a good job of capturing the points of Sontag on the Fascist and Nazi links with Riefenstahl, as well as the Nuba. The links with BDSM are a bit weak--I think there are plenty of visual for that that could have been used--but cudos!
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  • Eroticization of Fascist Aesthetics

    1. 1. S usan ONTAG Fascinating Fascism Text Interpretation By Xiren Wang, Sciences-Po, Paris, 19 April 2010
    2. 2. I II
    3. 3. First Exhibit A book of 126 splendid colour photographs by Leni Riefenstahl THE LAST OF THE NUBA. Photographs Dated From 1927-1972.
    4. 4. ‘‘ ...and each of them shows some version of an ideal presence, a kind of imperishable beauty... that only gets gayer, more metallic and healthier-looking with old age. ’’
    5. 5. ‘‘ And here is a biographical sketch of Riefenstahl on the dust jacket ... - full of disquieting lies. ’’
    6. 6. ... and soon she was herself making - and starring in - her own talkies, such as ... The Mountain film 1929
    7. 7. ‘‘ Mountain climbing in Fanck’s films was a visually irresistible metaphor for unlimited aspiration toward the high mystic goal... ...both beautiful and terrifying, which was later to become concrete in the Führer - worship. ’’
    8. 8. Riefenstahl herself directed 6 films, the first of which was another mountain film... allegorizing the dark themes of Longing, Purity, & Death.
    9. 9. ‘‘ The facts, denied by R. since the war, are that she made Triumph of the Will with unlimited facilities and unstinting official cooperation. (there was never any struggle between the filmmaker and the German minister of propaganda) ’’
    10. 10. Modern Day Influences Throne March scene, Star Wars
    11. 11. ‘‘ is that The truth Olympia was commissioned and entirely financed by the Nazi government. (a dummy company was set up in Riefenstahl’s name because it was thought unwise for the government to appear as the producer) ’’
    12. 12. LIES 1. P. 74 «a biographical sketch ... full of disquieting lies» 2. P. 75 «The facts are, of course, inaccurate or invented...no such film exists.» 3. P. 77 «The next film Riefenstahl directed after The Blue Light was not ‘a documentary on the Nuremberg Rally in 1934’» 4. P. 77 «R. made four non-fiction films, not two»
    13. 13. LIES - continued 5. P. 78 «Except for the bit about her having once been a household word in Nazi Germany, not one part of the above (bio) is true.» 6. P. 80 «even the plausible-sounding legend of Goebbles objecting to her footage of...Jesse Owens is untrue.» 7. P. 80 «More lies: ...» 8. P. 81 «R. prefers to give the impression that... but the truth is that 4 of the 6 films she directed were documentaries made for and financed by the Nazi government.»
    14. 14. LIES - continued 9. P. 81 «...no evidence supports R’s persistent claim since the 1950s that Goebbels hated her...» 10.....
    15. 15. ‘‘ Because of her unlimited personal access to Hitler, R. was precisely the only German filmmaker who was not responsible to the Film Office of Goebbel’s ministry of propaganda. ’’
    16. 16. ‘‘ ...it was not her ‘acquaintance’ with the Nazi leadership but her activities as a leading propagandist for the Third Reich that were at issue. ’’
    17. 17. ‘‘ It (The Last of the Nuba) was the final rewrite of the past ... confirmation that she was always a beauty freak rather than a horrid propagandist. ’’
    18. 18. ‘‘ are ...if the photographs examined carefully... it becomes clear that they are continuous with her Nazi work. [It] is about a primitivist ideal: a portrait of a people subsisting in a pure harmony with their environment, untouched by ‘civilization’ ’’
    19. 19. ‘‘ All four of R’s commissioned Nazi films... celebrate the rebirth of the body and of community, mediated through the worship of an irresistible leader. ’’
    20. 20. ‘‘ are tales The Alpine fictions of longing for high places, of the challenge and ordeal of the elemental, the primitive; they are about the vertigo of power, symbolized by the majesty and beauty of mountains. ’’
    21. 21. ‘‘ The Nazi films are epics of achieved community, in which everyday reality is transcended through ecstatic self-control and submission; they are about the triumph of power. ’’
    22. 22. Fascist Aesthetics egomania vs. servitude
    23. 23. Fascist Aesthetics ‘‘ The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transactions between mighty forces and their puppets, uniformly garbed and shown in ever swelling numbers... Fascist art glorifies surrender, it exalts mindlessness, it glamorizes death ’’
    24. 24. ‘‘ Fascist art displays a utopian aesthetics - that of physical perfection. ’’
    25. 25. Utopian Aesthetics ‘‘ implies an ...utopian aesthetics ideal eroticism: sexuality converted into the magnetism of the leaders and the joy of followers. The fascist ideal is to transform sexual energy into a «spiritual» force, for the benefit of the community. ’’
    26. 26. ‘‘is always present as a The erotic (that is, women) temptation, with the most admirable response being a heroic repression of the sexual impulse. ’’
    27. 27. There is a general fantasy about Uniforms ‘‘ SS? Why the Because the SS was the ideal incarnation of fascism’s overt assertion of the righteousness of violence, the right to have total power over others and to treat them as absolutely inferior. ’’
    28. 28. Sadomasochism ‘‘ and Between sadomasochism fascism there is a natural link. «Fascism is theatre»...as is sadomasochist sexuality. Sadomasochism is to sex what war is to civil life: the magnificent experience.
    29. 29. The End ...to which all sexual experience tends... is defilement, blasphemy. ‘‘ The fad for Nazi regalia indicates something quite different: a response to an oppressive freedom of choice in sex, to an unbearable degree of individuality; the rehearsal of enslavement rather than its reenactment
    30. 30. Conscious Aesthetics ‘‘ Sadomasochism has always been the furthest reach of the sexual experience... The colour is back, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.

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