Hitler Dead or Alive (1942, directed by Nick Grinde) summed things up long ago: le moustache, c´est l´homme, at least in the world of images. That´s why the Allied hit squad doesn´t have to rub Hitler out — a close shave would be sufficient, and the Führer´s lackeys, unable to recognize Adolf H.´s bare face as that of their idol, would take care of the rest.
Adolf Hitler: The 20th century figure portrayed most often in film and on television is for many great actors a dream role, and for some, such as Bobby Watson and Fritz Diez, the supporting role of their life. That´s fitting for a statesman who had postcards made which showed him speaking to crowds in various poses. These images resembled portraits of stage and screen stars for theater lobby cards. Sixty-five actors portraying Hitler make an appearance in Conference. Notes on Film 05, but the original is never seen. However, one has the impression that a little bit of him is present in every one: A toothbrush moustache and side part are all that´s necessary. Or maybe not. All the Conference Hitlers are from after the 1940s, and Norbert Pfaffenbichler filmed them in Super 8 and black and white from a monitor so that they match.
Sixty-five Hitlers: He appears as if from the depths of space, the darkness, and then Erewhon, from beyond the frame. As if through certain gestures, routines and repetitions thereof, variants and variations, a narrative, an essay, a study is created of what´s characteristic about Hitler, and it spans decades. On the one hand this is thoroughly grotesque, because nothing from one Hitler to the next matches. For example, the patchwork Hitler suddenly turns into a crowd of Hitlers engaged in a torrent of debate. Just after that it seems as if we had been watching a film viewed by (still another) Hitler! On the other hand, Bernhard Lang´s music, by means of electronic hissing and pounding and the phrases looped into snags and stutters, is a reminder of all the things done in the name of this face. What´s the effect on the audience? "Stop! Stop!" can be heard in the prelude, when the final credits roll at the beginning.
Translation: Steve Wilder
In this grotesque found-footage-film close-ups of 65 actors playing Adolf Hitler in movies created between 1940 and today are combined in shot/countershot-manner. The soundtrack is produced by the Austrian composer Bernhard Lang.
No other historical figure of the 20th century was portrayed more often in movies and by so many different actors than Adolf Hitler. (Only Jesus Christ has more appearances in cinema´s history - but with a headstart of more than 50 years.) In this grotesque and uncanny identity parade Adolf Hitler is presented as an undead who is impersonated by an alarming number of revenants.
CONFERENCE is part five of my notes on film-series, which deals wtih filmtheoretical and -historical subjects. The movie is also part of a series of works about Charles Chaplin, which includes a number of installations and films.
english print version