Rudiger Sunner, dir. Black Sun: The Mythological Background of National Socialism. Brooklyn: ICARUS Films, 2009 . DVD. Color. 90 minutes.
Reviewed by Mary Catherine Lawler (Rutgers University)
Published on H-German (June, 2010)
Commissioned by Benita Blessing (Oregon State University)
Shedding Light on Nazi Myths
In Rüddiger Sünner's 1997 film Black Sun: The Mythological Background of National Socialism, now available on DVD, Sünner's omnipresent voice-over outlines National Socialists' fascination with myths, legends, and symbols of the supposedly oldest, most superior of all races--the Aryan clan. As Sünner clearly demonstrates, the Nazis misconstrued, often consciously or without interest in facts, these bases for their ideological claims to racial superiority. The Nazi claim to these myths went beyond an appropriation of earlier people's foundational tales. In the Nazi (re-)tellings, the original figures and stories become unrecognizable. There was no attempt to research either scientific or anthropological evidence that would prove an unbroken ancestral chain from dominant, half-god forerunner--whose own superiority would supposedly legitimate the Nazis' right to racial hatred.
Sünner highlights the hypocrisy inherent in the development of the Nazi Party, including a detailed explanation of how Nazis asserted the existence of "half-races." As Sünner demonstrates, Nazis believed that an Aryan race existed as half-gods. This status positioned them as having unique power and knowledge inaccessible to other peoples or races. Meanwhile, based on an ahistorical assumption from a medieval belief, the Jewish people, also considered half-beings, were criticized for supposedly being an "inferior race." The most subtle and intelligent aspect of Sünner's film is his argument for a subconscious, psychological target in the German people--a sort of buried collective consciousness that longed for a return to such mythological origins.
The pinnacle of the film lies in the sequences of modern Germans gathering at the "Externsteinen." These five looming rock structures--the largest over thirty-seven meters high--represent an important part of myths of a clear German heritage. These myths glorify their presence throughout multiple periods of German and so-called Germanic history: their assumed use in pagan rituals; their role as a fortress in the Middle Ages; Heinrich Himmler's identification of them as a national site of German pride; and, more recently, the multiple audiences who visit the site--from tourists to neo-Nazis. Here Sünner remarks carefully that one might see a parallel between the German state of mind shortly before the rise to power of the SS, and contemporary ideologies. He renders almost tangible the nostalgic desire for a history full of heroes fighting for good and justice, and the need to create an imaginary enemy in order to do so. This documentary thus juxtaposes the polarization in German national history between an obsession with capturing light in all its symbolic uses in order to battle the "darkness" of the Other. The final lesson that Dark Sun implies--and what makes it a provocative and interesting film for a number of audiences, whether scholars and students of history, film studies, or iconography--is the danger of not knowing one's own history. In this sense, the title signals not only the recurrent theme of evil throughout history, but also the need to shed light upon all its manifestations.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-german.
Mary Catherine Lawler. Review of Sunner, Rudiger, dir., Black Sun: The Mythological Background of National Socialism.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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