Cinema plays history : National Socialism and the Holocaust in counterfactual historical films of the twenty-first century
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Inspired by 2009 pastiche 'Inglourious Basterds' (US/DE), my research presents counterfactual historical film, firstly, as a marginalised type of film: the 2000s and 2010s have seen an abundance of overtly fictional films which do not intend to represent the past but nonetheless playfully refer to imageries of National Socialist and Holocaust history. These films have so far been neglected by historical film studies which, despite a consensus not to judge films according to their factual accuracy, tend to focus on genres close to historiography. My research considers as historical films the counterfactual parodies 'Churchill: The Hollywood Years' (GB 2004) and 'Mein Führer: Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler' (DE 2007), as well as 'Inglourious Basterds' and, in a brief conclusion, Nazi zombie films. In this sense, counterfactual historical film is, secondly, a research approach which suggests reconfiguring academic definitions of the field of history and film and historical film. Assuming that historical film never visualises past reality but engages with a history that is always already medialised, I propose that the above films despite their counterfactual plots embark on a visual historical discourse, and what is more reflect upon cinema and history in their own enlightening ways. My analyses show how twenty-first century counterfactual historical films revise Nazi and Holocaust visual history, and how they describe National Socialist history as visually constructed and historical Nazism as an eclectic amalgamation drawing on fictional as well as factual media sources. In regard to the present, they explore tensions between popular and academic culture through the dissolving binaries of fiction film and historiographical fact, and propose to recognise the reciprocity of media representation and actual past as an object of research in its own right. My research demonstrates the value of cinema’s playful engagement with history as a potential contribution to the theory and practise of historical film studies.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2020-05-10
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 10th May 2020
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