Epic Theater versus Film Noir

Ehrhard Bahr

in Weimar on the Pacific

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780520251281
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933804 | DOI:
Epic Theater versus Film Noir

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When American newspapers reported the assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich in Prague in May 1942, Bertolt Brecht and Fritz Lang immediately seized upon the idea of writing a script for a hostage film. Only two months after the assassination, Brecht pasted into his diary a newspaper clipping of July 28 that announced the production of Never Surrender, a film with a Czechoslovakian locale. The film, to be produced by Arnold Pressburger and directed by Fritz Lang, would prominently feature the character of Heydrich the Hangmen. This chapter discusses Brecht's concept of “dialectic theater” and the principles of film noir as they were employed by Lang in his anti-Nazi film Hangmen Also Die. Brecht had developed the story together with Lang and believed that the film would be constructed in the manner of “epic theater,” but he did not realize that film noir, although dialectical in its story line and manipulation of reality, was based on suspense and surprise, which were anathema to dialectic theater.

Keywords: Bertolt Brecht; Fritz Lang; assassination; Reinhard Heydrich; epic theater; film noir; Never Surrender; Hangmen Also Die; dialectic theater; suspense

Chapter.  7846 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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