Review: Harlan In the Shadow of Jew Süss DVD

Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Suss DVD boxSTUDIO: Zeitgeist | DIRECTOR: Felix Moeller
RELEASE DATE: 11/23/10 | PRICE: DVD $29.99
BONUSES: Q&A with Veit Harlan’s granddaughter, interview with German filmmaker Alexander Kluge
SPECS: NR | 110 min. | Foreign-language documentary| 1.78:1 widescreen | stereo | German, French and Italian with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Foreign movie Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss is the story of Nazi Germany’s most successful director, Harlan Veit, and his most notorious film, 1940’s Jew Süss, which was required viewing for the SS and considered to be so viciously anti-Semitic that it was banned after World War II.

Made under the supervision of Joseph Goebbels, Jew Süss is the fictionalized story of an 18th Century Jewish financial advisor who raises taxes and, of course, rapes and murders a Christian girl. Several clips of the film are included in Harlan, and, yes, it’s pretty ugly stuff.

Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss provides a fascinating glimpse of the workings of the Nazi film studio UFA, including the final glittering premiere of the era for Harlan’s film Kolberg, which provided the basis for Stolz der Nation, the film-within-a-film in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds).

Much of the Harlan movie focuses on the director’s family and descendants and features interviews with many of them (including his niece Christiane Harlan, who years later became Mrs. Stanley Kubrick) about the legacy of his Nazi ties. Harlan was the only filmmker tried for war crimes (twice and acquitted both times), and his family’s responses are varied: One son researched Nazi war crimes and atrocities; another refuses to discuss family matters; and one daughter married a Jew whose maternal grandfather was murdered at Auschwitz. Being a theatrical family, some of Harlan’s relatives critique the film Jew Süss: “Did he have to make it that good?” Some of this becomes typically Teutonic self-analysis … and self-flagellation.

Among the extras on this DVD is an interview with respected German filmmaker Alexander Kluge (Yesterday’s Girl) on Harlan’s career and influence.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.