Last night's viewing - The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler, BBC2; Britain's Best Bakery, ITV1
Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books, 2013, and is currently a judge of the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014, and the Independent Scholastic New Children's Prize 2014.
Tuesday 27 November 2012
Charisma, we were told in the first of this three-part series, is not a quality that exists independently, but is a contract between two parties. In the case of Adolf Hitler, the contract was between one man and an entire nation.
The final part of The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler began at the height of his popularity, when he had convinced the nation of his visionary powers, with one foreign campaign after another leading to fast, furious victories. "This future belongs entirely to us," he declared, with no scintilla of uncertainty. The Germans bought his myth of supremacy because they wanted to feel themselves superior after the humiliations of the First World War and economic instability.
This series ran the serious risk of treading on old ground – how many documentaries have been made on the Nazis? While its writer and producer, Laurence Rees, repeated his central arguments a little too frequently, he still managed to give us something spine-chilling and fresh, avoiding the same old inquiries into this appalling moment in Western history. The Holocaust remained firmly in the background. What Rees focused on was Hitler's unstoppable urge for German expansion. The episode opened with his invasion of the Soviet Union, which brought an end to his military triumphs, although the German population hardly realised the fact, as Hitler was making stadia-filling speeches that declared the Russians to have been crushed. Of course, no such thing had happened, but the German people were too far gone by then, buying into his fantasy, hook, line and sinker.
This episode, like the others, located itself in Germany, looking at the "cult of Hitler" from within rather than without. Here, he is not the clichéd embodiment of evil but an oddball, allowed to exercise his Svengali-like powers of persuasion by a population desperately in need of a "saviour"; indeed, a nation of willing accomplices who let themselves be manipulated, only recognising his lies and betrayals when it was too late.
Alongside the recorded reflections of ordinary Germans who lived through the era was footage of rallies, speeches and street scenes from the 1930s and 1940s, shown in far greater fullness than the flashes we normally see. More extraordinary was the war footage – Germans battling the Soviet winter, artillery equipment and soldiers blown off their feet in a snowstorm; a rare film of Hitler with his army commandants; and, finally, the awful visions of Germany's destroyed buildings and hollowed-out cities, as well as the dead bodies of Joseph Goebbels' six children piled up neatly after he had killed them – a woeful sight to behold.
Rees noted that Hitler's rhetoric did not beguile every German: there were high-level conspirators who did not enter into the "charisma contract", with two assassination attempts, in 1943 and 1944, and a supressed coup. The most astonishing aspect of this charisma contract, which upended Rees's theory that "it takes two", was that even after the German population had lost faith in him, Hitler's certainty in his own rightness, and his own greatness, never ever wavered, even in those final days in the bunker.
Those decompressing from The Great British Bake-Off might not find a replacement in Britain's Best Bakery, which has launched an "epic search" for its victor, but it will fend off withdrawal symptoms for armchair food-porn addicts. True, it is derivative in its bake-off format – this first episode revolved around three West Country bakeries – and its presenters, Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell, are far too polite for high-octane reality TV. What carries the show is the camera work. There were straight-out-of-the-oven lardy cakes, dinky black forest tarts and nettle-and-chive bread being kneaded, whipped up, baked, the camera lingering on each creamy, oozing mouthful as Turner and Sidwell tucked in.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
How to read Will Self: Unlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming in September 2014
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain