?Jud Su? – A Subtle yet Blatantly Obvious anti-Semitic Film ‘’The events on this film are based on historical facts’’ – this seemingly harmless exposition in the film Jud Su? by Veit Harlan creates an immediate impression to viewers that the plot is credible and unbiased. This is the beauty of Jud Su? as an anti-Semitic Film – the storyline and characters are so well developed that it becomes easy for viewers to lose track of the underlying anti-Semitic tones present. The propaganda is not apparent but is presented in a subtle manner that smoothly contributes to the overall plot of the film.
However, despite Harlan’s effective effort into its subtlety, Jud Su? is undeniably an anti-Semitic film. Ironically, the lack of crassness and evident propaganda in the film makes it extremely effective as an anti-Semitic film as viewers could leave the cinema with a new born prejudice against Jews without even knowing it. It wasn’t just a crude propaganda as the film had many other enjoyable aspects of it such as the cinematography, the vintage set up and the professionalism of the actors and actresses.
It had typical elements of a melodrama such as dramatic reversals of fortune, suspense and over-dramatic characters. The story is delivered as an old tale of good versus evil, the evil clearly represented by Oppenheimer, the Jew. Oppenheimer plays the devil’s advocate here by turning Germans against themselves. After being manipulated and influenced by Oppenheimer, even the duke eventually spots the snake in the grass and questions Remchingen ‘’Should an open feud break out between me and my Swabians? ’’. What follows is the scene of an angry mob of people charging towards the castle in distinct dissatisfaction.
This is a huge contrast to the beginning of the film, when the people of Wurttenberg were cheering and celebrating the Duke’s coronation, before the appearance of the Jew. Harlan uses this difference as a tool to highlight the before and after effects of having a Jew as part of the community. The characteristic of the ‘’evil’’ Oppenheimer wasn’t the only indicator of this anti-Semitic movie. Harlan also takes advantage of transitions between scenes to manipulate emotions of the viewers by utilizing aspects such as the background music.
Right at the beginning of the film, the last shot of the celebratory scene at Wurttenberg is of the town emblem accompanied by majestic sounding music. This is then followed by an immediate transition to a sign stating ‘’Coins and Jewellery’’ and there is a sudden music change from the previous grand sounding one to a more eerie and discordant tune. This distinct difference between the music is used to stir emotions within the audience to the corresponding scenes – happiness in the Jew-free town of Wurttenberg and disgust in the Jewish ghetto.
Plus, the sign ‘’Coins and Jewellery’’ is the first impression that the audience get of the Jewish people, contributing to the stereotype that Jews are selfish and greedy. Another obvious transition used as a tool for comparison is the scene of Dorothea’s dejected and lonely singing which was preceded by the overwhelming and ululating religious chanting of the Jews. This highlights Dorothea’s innocence and her role as the victim. This also compares directly to the start of the film where she was singing the same lines of ‘’all of my thoughts, they are with you’’ but accompanied by her lover, Faber.
Thus, here the audience sympathises with her loneliness and sorry. Without needing to blatantly point it out, the Jews appear again as the predator. Back in the 19th Century in Germany during National Socialism, there was definitely gender inequality where women should always be loyal to men. Interestingly, many of Oppenheimer’s portrayed features are often link to those of a lady’s. In all his appearances during the film, he always had on jewelleries and especially in the beginning when he reveals his store of jewelleries, he is seen to be very delicate with the manipulation of these items.
Also, much like a temptress, his main weapon as the ‘’villain’’ is his power of seduction. When he invites Dorothea into his bedroom, he asks ‘’hast du angst? ’’ (Are you afraid) which directly mimics Dorothea’s question to Faber when she invites him into her room on their wedding night. On the surface, all these features may seem to just characterise Oppenheimer, but the bigger picture here is that these unmanly Jewish flaws are consistent to the stereotype that they are not physically perfect, like the men of Aryan race are.
Taking it a step further, it can be argued that Jews are not even comparable to women, especially not German women. The scene when Oppenheimer’s carriage overturns can be said to be subtly anti-Semitic. Here, Oppenheimer is thrown on the dirt after his fancy carriage rush passed a humble German wagon. When he meets Dorothea for the first time, he is standing on lower ground and looking up to her. This could represent their different social standing. Towards the end of the film, Dorothea also manages to push Oppenheimer to the ground.
Dorothea seems to be the only character throughout the film whom manages to be above Oppenheimer, metaphorically and physically speaking. Therefore, this emphasizes on the idea that Jews are hypersexual and without self-control. The storyline of Jud Su? was so artfully sculpted that it becomes easy, if not automatic, for viewers to watch the film in an outrageously biased lens. So much so that it becomes difficult to recognize and acknowledge Oppenheimer as an over achiever. After all, he did bring in the Opera for entertainment and could potentially encourage cultural development.
He was also innovative and futuristic enough to improve the terrible road conditions. Thus, he isn’t just increasing the standard of living but also generating income for the government and thus spurring economic development. Not to mention that Oppenheimer had further plans on building political ties with the duke of Wurzburg. Despite all his efforts, his potential in becoming an effective politician is completely undermined for one sole reason: his religious and cultural difference of being a Jew.
Undoubtedly, if all these contributions were made by a German, the German would have been looked up upon as an icon. Interestingly, the Germans are still seen as the hero in this film due to one reason and one reason only: they finally killed one Jew and got rid of the others at the end of the film. Finally, the film comes to an end with Sturm giving out a speech, stating his hope that his ‘’descendants adhere’’ to the decree of keeping Jews out and ‘’thereby be spared suffering for their own well-being’’.
Seeing Sturm give a speech as a representative of the Council brings the viewers right back to the beginning when Sturm does the same. Hence, this cycle generates a feeling of renewal, like as if the Germans are now given a second chance. This ends the film with a satisfying and reassuring feeling among the viewers that everything will be alright, as long as they continue to isolate the Jews. Citation Harlan, Veit. Jud Su?. Germany, 2008 .
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