Wagner And The Popular Authoritarian Leader

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 19 February 2017 | 3:27:00 am

It's difficult to become fascinated with Wagner without becoming equally fascinated with racist, far right authoritarian leaders. Not because Wagner may have been any of these things (as much as some biographers would have us believe) but because of a person who has grown so closely associated with him; Adolf Hitler. And not just Hitler and the Third Reich but similar extremist authoritarian movements; both in the past and the present. I am even more fascinated by how such people come to power - a lifelong one that influenced early academic choices. The most common answer to such a question is that the people that elect them (when commentators admit they so often elected) are simply not the "norm", poorly educated (although there is sometimes truth in this) or that they are "manipulated". Indeed, this excuse is being used now in the US as an explanation for the chaotic presidency - only 8 weeks old - of Donald J Trump. However, the truth is much more complex than this although, sadly, this may not be the place to discuss it any depth.

However, I sat with fascination today watching the recent Trump press conference and then his rally in California. Watching the crowds at the later it was difficult to not be reminded of the ending of the recent film version of Timur Vermes'  comedy novel "Er ist wieder da" (Look Who's Back). If you are unfamiliar, both the book and film imagine that somehow Hitler is transported in time from his last day in the Führerbunker to present day Berlin. Quickly acclimatizing, he uses social and traditional media to rise to power. The film is unusual in that it uses both scripted and unscripted scenes, with its unscripted moments being perhaps the most disturbing. During these Oliver Masucci manages to channel Hitler in the most extraordinary manner. More interesting is how, in Germany of perhaps all places, while in character, so many ordinary Germans agree with him; "If you were him, I would follow you today", says one.

The movie ends with Hitler explaining why he came to power and why he will again.

Boyd van Hoeij of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a poor review, saying that it "... doesn't ... suggest something meaningful about either contemporary German society or whether Hitler's ideas and methods could potentially take root again", He said this in May 2016 - only six months before Trump became the "Leader of the free world"  and only eight months before a poll yesterday found 40% of Americans felt Trump was "doing a good job",.

If you have not seen it I cannot do more than recommend you get it on DVD. If you have access to Netflix it is also available there right now.

If you are still undecided, and are unbothered by "spoilers" - although I  think hardly relevant in this case -  you can watch the "denouncement" in the clip of the final few minutes of the movie below.

By the way, Wagner's music only appears once, and then only by a terrible TV show.