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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Les Maudits And A Ship Of Fools

I am watching Les Maudits  (literally The Cursed, but shown in the US as The Damned) from 1947 France.

The setting is a few days before the fall of Berlin; a number of Nazis and collaborators are escaping to refuge to somewhere in South America by means of a U-Boat leaving the submarine docks in Norway. The crew and these escapees make for very tight quarters.
Inadvertently, the brains behind the scheme neglected to allow for a medical officer to sail with them, so when a lady suffers a concussion, they hatch a plan to land in a town in occupied France accessible to the sea, and to kidnap a doctor there.

In a scene where everyone is crowded around a dining table in the mess, there is a discussion of final victory: even though this war is lost, final victory is not necessarily to be denied their cause. South America will serve as a refuge for them to get their act together, and begin the long haul to a final victory.

At this point, it would help to have a bit more History than "Nazi" and "Hitler". Some background of Mussolini and Italy would be nice, as well as some background of Spain and the Spanish Civil War. This would serve to get a taste of the widespread Conservative philosophy of Monarchism and Fascism which was the forcing garden where National Socialism grew in Europe.
(And French and British Fascism should be added to the mix.)

There is one character, Garosi, who is Italian. It appears that in the Fascist world he is very well known, for his father had been one of the original supporters of Mussolini. Garosi appears to be one of those educated types that would nowadays be known as a "strategist", such as the "Democratic strategists" and "Republican strategists" that are smeared all over cable TV news shows, talking confidently about... strategy, I guess, although it seems more to be "opinion" or "editorial" to me, but I come from a different time, place, and planet.

In his speech to others, Garosi remains firm in his belief in final victory, until the news arrives by radio that Hitler is dead.
There is some discussion as to whether this could be a ruse, perpetrated either by the Allies, or by Goebbels, Goering, and Himmler.

Garosi, whose wife has been having an affair with the Wehrmacht general who is running the operation, crumbles at last, and admits that all is lost. It seems that he questions his entire life, and finds it terribly wanting. He kills himself by jumping from the deck and drowning soon after.

Yet.... yet, just before this, he had been asked by the Nazi thug leader Forster whether he still believed...

As if being packed like a bunch of rats in an old U-Boat and running away to South America, far, far away from the locale of the Thousand Year Reich did not mean anything at all!  Do you still believe?!

The Nazi movement was a monster that spawned in the discontent of the Modern and Anti-Modernism.
The Conservatism exemplified by the Monarchists in Spain and the Fascists in Italy and the Right Wings in England, France, and other countries of Europe was in response to the incredible change of the Modern world, and the new found philosophy of Liberalism, the threat of Anarchism, and the promises and dreams of Socialism.

The conflicts were not resolved in any rational nor saintly manner, and the result was the monster spawn of Nazism.

The conflicts are still not resolved. Here in Michigan we have this year seen a bizarre throw-back to the 20th century when Governor Snyder and the Republicans passed a right-to-work law as part of their attack against working people organizing.... the same things General Francisco Franco fought against in 1936!

It is not enough to believe.
Not by a long shot.



Ship of Fools motif

German Woodcut of a Narrenschiff, or Ship Of Fools

The ship of fools is an allegory that has long been a fixture in Western literature and art. The allegory depicts a vessel populated by human inhabitants who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious passengers aboard a ship without a pilot, and seemingly ignorant of their own direction. This concept makes up the framework of the 15th century book Ship of Fools (1494) by Sebastian Brant, which served as the inspiration for Bosch's famous painting, Ship of Fools: a ship—an entire fleet at first—sets off from Basel to the paradise of fools. In literary and artistic compositions of the 15th and 16th centuries, the cultural motif of the ship of fools also served to parody the 'ark of salvation' as the Catholic Church was styled.


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