The Emergence of the Fascist Aesthetic in Early German Cinema

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My thesis explores the development of a fascist aesthetic in German films, examining three significant, active filmmakers between 1922 and 1939 (Fritz Lang, Arnold Fanck, and Leni Riefenstahl), whose works feature an aesthetic continuity before and after 1933. Despite political differences, formal and thematic similarities exist in the works of these filmmakers, which have sometimes been discussed in the context of a “fascist aesthetic” that was initially conceptualized in the Weimar era and became increasingly instrumentalized by filmmakers during the Nazi era.

While scholars have long debated the idea and substance of a fascist aesthetic, renewed debates about the concept at the contemporary moment underscore the importance of reconsidering the topic at the point of its origin. I approach the problem by contextualizing this aesthetic in the forms it takes pre- and post-1933 and emphasizing that this aesthetic is comprised of motifs and images that are contextually specific.