Christiane Kubrick had 42 wonderful years with her husband. But in the decade since his death, she has been beset by tragedy. For the first time, she talks about losing one daughter to cancer, another to Scientology – and why her uncle made films for Goebbels.
Though almost forgotten today, Veit Harlan was one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious filmmakers. Millions all across occupied Europe saw his films, the most perfidious of which was the treacherous anti-Semitic propaganda film Jew Süss—required viewing for all SS members. An unrepentant and blindly obsessive craftsman, no figure—save for Leni Riefenstahl—is as closely associated with the cinema of the Holocaust years as that of Joseph Goebbels’ top director. (Harlan’s 1945 epic Kolberg was the basis for Inglourious Basterds’ pivotal film-within-a-film Stolz Der Nation.) Harlan was also the only artist from the Nazi era to be charged with war crimes.
With never-before-seen archival footage, unearthed film excerpts, rare home movies and new interviews, Harlan – In the Shadow of “Jew Süss” is indeed a searing portrait of the controversial filmmaker and an eye-opening examination of World War II film history. But it also shows how Veit Harlan’s family—especially the youngest generation—struggles even today with the dark myth of his artistic immorality. It’s the story of a German family from the Third Reich to the present, one that is marked by reckoning, denial and liberation.
“Where my uncle was an enormous fool, as many talented people are, was that he mistook his gift for intelligence. He was a great big famous film person. He looked better and talked better and had enormous charm. So he thought he was also far more intelligent than Mr Goebbels. Goebbels was 10,000 times smarter than my uncle.” She pauses. “Film people, actors, are puppets. We are silly. We are silly folk.”