Frank is obviously Frank Capra, the allied head of cinematic propagandai. His approach is that of a salesman, giving the low-down, no kidding, on the level story of the war. As seen from his side, obviously.
The only notable point is the very plain and very comprehensible explanation of the war's geostrategic considerationsii. That it is both improper and improbable for the alliance of hoof and tail to own the entire heifer just so happened to be Hitler's chief point. The happenstance that Frank's story fully supports that point doesn't as much as cause a ripple : it's not after all "propaganda". Just salesmanship.
The plight of the Czech - and even more so of the Poles - at the hands of their "civilised" Western allies is lightly noted, conveniently ignoring the ignominious hypocrisy and shameless wholesaling of peoples and countries those very same "civilised" Allies engaged in.iii After all the justifications for us and ours aren't at all like those of the Germans and Japanese, but entirely different.
The film does introduce and a few times repeat the notion that Germans are intrinsically bad people, who repeatedly do mean things because they're structurally defective human beings. This, however, is not to be misconstrued by enemies of the people, democracy and God himself as just another sample of the pervasive racism fashionable at the time, neither quantitatively nor qualitatively different from Germany's own.
The film itself isn't particularly interesting or uninteresting, it's just stupid, much like any powerpoint presentation or other commercial copy, it simply presents a gutted reality which to the average thinking person is about as appealing, comfortable or noteworthy as the average plastic bone to the average Weimaraner. It doubtlessly served its purpose, which is to say, it did bestow a false sense of "understanding" on a few million unequipped to do any bona fide understanding of anything whatsoever and consequently it justified whatever accounts.
Leni is perhaps not equally obviously Leni Riefenstahl. Her film starts with cloud footage, floats over old church towersiv continues with boys shaving and grooming in vast camping grounds outside of Nurnberg and in general captures a lot of interesting detail and does a lot of truthful reporting of mundane accident which would be inaccessible to the average salesman. Like it or not, Leni's piece is a lot more intellectualy accomplished, even if (as is the usual fate of intellectually accomplished things) the side paying her salary didn't, ultimately, prevail.
The bits showing boys happily working together pretty much constitute a blueprint for later Soviet reels of "civilizing" the countryside, building Socialism and whatnot. This eager appropriation of "evil German" ideas and practices by the "civilised" and absolutely "superior" hoof&tail alliance - be it rocketry, aspirin or youth welfare & education - speaks volumes of the same intellectual superiority. It's not simply that Leni's smarter and better read than Frank, it's pretty much that the Germans were smarter and better read than their enemies. Unfortunately, intelligence and culture alone are of scarce benefit, especially in a contest against business savvyv.
The cvasi-complete absence of any reference to the enemy is certainly notable. "Others" are mentioned unspecifically and derisively a few times. The "others" that don't understand why hundreds of thousands of young men would gather in marginal living conditions to listen to the hysterics of one guy (twenty years before Woodstock). The "others" that are at a loss why it'd be important for people from Dresden and Bayern to meet doods from Donau and Schwarzwald, and to meet them as a classless and unhierarchical mess. The "others" that are appalled you'd only get to eat if you agree with the Fuhrer while labour in their own, democratic countries only gets to eat if it agrees with capital. The others.
Both pieces are intrinsically boring, and Leni's certainly put me to sleep half way through. Both are lies, inasmuch as they're the same exact lie. Both work, inasmuch as idiots will be found everywhere.
Frank and Leni, the story of the both of the others.———
- "Not propaganda films like those created by the Nazis and Japan". [↩]
- Also noteworthy for clearly explaining that the Western Hemisphere is not one of two such Hemispheres, as there's no "Eastern" one. The Western Hemisphere is the conveniently pompous name given to the trimmings, those side bits more properly discarded in any serious discussion of planet Earth, properly comprised of the World Island. [↩]
- "All this is merely to ascertain the facts, because we should none of us ever speak a word about it." [↩]
- In spite of the nazis not being particularly pro religion, quite the contrary. I propose that a good test of propaganda is to count exactly how many "stray hairs" make it into the soup. Very good propaganda always has a few, but honest points of view usually have a lot more than that. [↩]
- Which notably requires no intelligence whatsoever, that's why bankers are never entrepreneurs and vice-versa. This point, painful as it may be, was taught numerous times by history. Both French and English aristocracy learned it first hand. One, being also proud, was crushed outright. The other, having no pride to speak of, was merely whittled away slowly. In the end there's little that can stand up to the man with the double entry books. [↩]