Weekend Binge: The Charlottesville tragedy, these 7 neo-Nazi films remind us monsters are real
In light of the tragic events in Charlottesville, what other option do we have than to read, to watch, and to listen, as much as humanly possible, as we try to understand the mind of monsters. Here are 7 films about neo-Nazis.Updated: Sep 01, 2017 13:07 IST
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” - Nelson Mandela
Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.
While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.
In light of the tragic events in Charlottesville, in which violence broke out at a far-right demonstration when a terrorist drove a car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, taking the life of a young woman, we’re forced to shine a spotlight on a particularly pathetic and unsavoury bunch of people: Neo-Nazis.
It is to try and wrap our minds around events such as this - and the Gorakhpur tragedy - that this series was created. This week, we will undertake - together - the difficult task of trying to comprehend how the mind of a monster works. It is perhaps a foolhardy mission, but what other option do we have than to read, to watch, and to listen, as much as humanly possible.
Oddly, several great actors announced their arrival playing neo-Nazis. Tim Roth broke out after Made in Britain, Ryan Gosling and Edward Norton (both of whom we’ll talk about momentarily) starred in The Believer and American History X. But in Romper Stomper, an Aussie-set tale of mad violence, blind hate, and deeply flawed characters, it was Russell Crowe’s moment to shine. Such was the depravity this film depicted that its British premiere drew protests, and a photograph of Crowe’s character, Mando, was found on the personal website of Charleston church shooter, Dylan Roof.
This is England
A word of warning is necessary here. For many, dark thematic material isn’t as disturbing as gore, or violence - but the ideas presented in Shane Meadows’ story of a group of young skinheads growing up in the shadow of Thatcher’s England will haunt you for days, if not weeks. The standout is character is Combo, the leader, who takes our 12-year-old protagonist under his wing, and teaches him to hate. In one particularly harrowing moment in the film, Combo delivers a speech that encompasses everything he is about: Rage, manipulation, and hidden deep within the corners of his unforgivable soul, confusion.
The characters returned in a spin-off TV series, which tracked them down every two years beginning 1986.
Like the next entrant in this list, Ryan Gosling’s character in The Believer, Daniel, is an intelligent man. From a young age, he questioned what he was being taught about God and religion. He grew up to become a fanatic, preaching hate on the streets of New York, getting into trouble, and never managing to fully bury who he really is: An Orthodox Jew. What makes his story stranger is that it was inspired by the life of a real person, Daniel Burros, who was a part of one of the most violent factions of the Ku Klux Klan.
American History X
Tony Kaye’s disowned film is a masterpiece. But what makes it stand apart from this crowd is not it’s quality - it is, by far, the best film in this list - but its protagonist. Derek, as played by Edward Norton in a fiery performance, is not the usual knucklehead one would expect a man who preaches such ideas to be. He is intelligent. He is educated. And most disturbingly, he knows how to rally troops. And like the other furious young men featured in the films on this list, he hides a secret that he is deeply ashamed of.
But Derek could learn a thing or two about brainwashing idiots from high school teacher Rainer Wenger. His students, who belong to the third generation after World War II, refuse to believe a dictatorship could be formed in modern Germany. So Wenger puts them through a series of assignments, and before long, students are being segregated, they’re addressing him as ‘Herr Wenger’, and marching in unison. Soon, leaders emerge, and with them, weaklings. A salute is devised by the powerful, and those who resist are beaten. An innocent lesson involving kids turns into a movement. More than anything else, this German film is about how compliant human beings really are, and how the sins of the past have a way of trickling down.
Louis and the Nazis
As part of his ongoing investigation into individuals who operate at the fringes of civilised society, documentarian Louis Theroux travelled to California to meet the man dubbed “the most dangerous racist in America”, Tom Metzger, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK. And while you’re at it, you might as well read journalist Jon Ronson’s account of the time he spent with Thom Robb, the chief of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, an offshoot of the real deal. In his book, Them: Adventures with Extremists, Ronson portrays the anti-semite as a bumbling oaf, and describes him as a neurotic old Jew.
Not a particularly good film, but how often do you get to see Daniel Radcliffe - the man who played Harry Potter, whose nemesis, Lord Voldemort, was inspired by the ideologies of Adolf Hitler - play a neo-Nazi?
One of the hardest lessons for us today. Perpetrators were people. They accepted an ideology that rationalized and promoted hatred & evil. https://t.co/wqJMUxMOvH— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 16, 2017