Jew Suss: Rise and Fall–Goebbles, Propaganda, and the Eroticism of Power

Set in Berlin in 1939, Jew Suss: Rise and Fall, an Austrian-German co-production deals with the seductiveness of power and the price of evil.

Austrian-born actor Ferdinand Marian (Tobias Moretti) is offered the starring role in the major Nazi production JUD SÜSS by the Third Reich’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (Moritz Bleibtreu), to be directed by Veit Harlan.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Marian. Nevertheless, he hesitates, primarily because of the
objections of his wife Anna (Martina Gedeck) and his fears of being typecast as a Jew. He
eventually gives in to Goebbels’ unrelenting pressure. Marian tries to convince himself and his
wife that he can give his evil character a human touch. But this well-meaning attempt plays right
into the hands of the filmmakers and makes his character even more despicable to the public.
Marian’s involvement in this minutely planned propaganda effort will change his life in ways he
never expected.
Both a human drama and a political film, Jew Suss: Rise and Fall sheds light on the mechanisms of power, political manipulation and its horrific consequences. The film is the story of how leading man Ferdinand Marian is manipulated by Joseph Goebbels, whose film JUD SÜSS was to become his centerpiece in his propaganda film campaign against the Jews.
Marian, both ambitious and naive, allows himself to become involved with things that are way out of his league and will eventually destroy his life. Far too late does he realize that he is trapped in a vehicle of the holocaust and that it has his face on it. Millions of Germans paid to see the movie, over 20 million people altogether in Europe. After its release, Marian himself became an eyewitness witness of the genocide – and was driven to despair by his feelings of complicity and guilt.
His dramatic fate is a rise and fall of a human being as well as a system. He is a man who, as with the inevitability of a Greek tragedy, is unable to escape the murderous system he has become part of. The film also provides a look at cultural life in the Third Reich and its most important political component, the movie industry.
The Nazis used propaganda movies to rule the country and were masters at it. Goebbels, one of the main characters of our film, was seductive as well as insidious–and extremely charming. Otherwise, he never would have been as successful. And he was obsessed. It would have taken superhuman powers to escape carrying out his will.
There have been no major movies about political power, conscience, artists and the movie business during the Third Reich since Mephisto, which was produced over 30 years ago.