Review of Jud Süß

Jud Süß (1940)
8/10
Anything but a Beloved Children's Author
3 January 2006
From his opening scene of ringed fingers running greedily over gems and jewels to his pathetic cries for salvation at his hanging, the "historically accurate" portrayal of Court Jew Suss Oppenheimer is a brilliant work of film-propaganda and an eye-opening understanding of the Nazi perspective. Except for the slobbery and entranced German Duke – caught under Oppenheimer's spell – Germans come across as a clean, clean shaven, proud, culturally profound and subjugated people, oppressed by Oppenheimer's avaricious rule and his grant of Jews into Württemberg. The classic elements of predator and prey, people versus government, (and occasionally at the expense of art) good against evil are employed to paint a masterpiece of propaganda, layering Oppenheimer and the Jewish people with every conceivable ingredient of wickedness.

The film shows little patience (though not without artfulness) with portraying Oppenheimer as a devious Jew, giving up even his "despicable values" (shaving his beard) for his gluttonous ambitions. Through a short dialogue with a fellow Jew, it is clear that Oppenheimer is a clever character, adept with human manipulation and ready with some soothing and sly words for a quick fix in a tricky situation. He thus wins over the Duke by giving him what the Estate could not. From the soft, young flesh of the Württemberg women, to absolute power, Oppenheimer is always ready to provide the Duke all his evil desires. It is interesting to note that the film depicted the Duke as a skuzzy individual from the beginning, and did not show (what could have been) the gradual degenerative effect of Oppenheimer on him. This might have been done to maintain a sense of realism and integrity of the film's art, or .

"How can we ever defeat the Jew? He is so much cleverer than us."

"He is not cleverer, only more cunning."

This exchange between two German citizens, living under Oppenheimer's oppressive rule, reveals a common fear and sentiment shared by most Germans at the time. The Jews were thought to be anything but an unintelligent race, rather it was their cunning and desire to fulfill their "Lord's will" and "rule (the world) in secret," as the hunchbacked rabbi told Oppenheimer, is what truly frightened the Germans. Levi, Oppenheimer's right hand man, at times, even annoys Oppenheimer with his hyper-Jewish mores. His beady eyes, beard, side curls, black dress, and scratchy voice make him a freakish and chilling character, waiting to foil the fight of the Estate's citizens with his Talmudic logic and biting wit. Memorable images include Levi, eyes wide open, violently rubbing his ink-stained hands together while plotting the downfall of those against Oppenheimer, and Levi and Oppenheimer eavesdropping on a conversation behind a wall, surrounded by rats and insects. Beyond the murky physical images hanging over the Jews, Jude Suss brings a compelling psychological aspect into play, being careful to inform German viewers of Jew's parasitical nature, natural propensity towards evil and metropolitan sophistication, the near nihilistic forgoing of values from days gone by.

In most of the scenes filled with German characters, booming symphonies filter through the images filling them with grandeur. Contrasting this is Oppenheimer's introduction, a smart but stale dialogue between two conspirators, without any music at all. Music also plays an important role with the unison between Faber and Dorthea, two young lovers growing up while Oppenheimer is in power. Their love duets evoke nostalgia and even an innocence of long ago, or, life before the Jew. This is a direct mirror of Volkist philosophy, and the absence of pretty music in Jew occupied scenes is a powerful ignition to the subconscious.

Jude Suss climaxes to Faber's torture, Dorthea's rape and drowning, the death of the Duke, arrest of Oppenheimer and his hanging. The last moments of film are enwrapped in a slow snow fall focusing in on Faber's sorrow as a representation of the Jewish consequence. Although Oppenheimer is hanged and the Jews are forced to leave Württemberg, the director manages to inject the nagging question of "what if," into his audience. What if Oppenheimer was never let into Württemberg to begin with? What if the Estate had acted faster and seized control of Oppenheimer's power before it was too late? What if the Germans of 1940, longing for a land of language, culture and time before the imprisoning Judeo-Christian ideology, annihilated the Jewish race and lived the life they dreamed of?
50 out of 87 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

Recently Viewed