The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and The Night of the Hunter (1955), films produced over 50 years apart, are similar in that they are tedious with predicable plot devices, populated with dull characters and saddled with stilted dialogue; in short, they are bereft of any effective story structure.These films should instead be celebrated for the artistry of the cinematographers.
Stanley Cortez’s work on The Night of the Hunter, clearly inspired by the German Expressionists of the 1920s, is haunting in the framing and lighting. Time and again, whether the underwater shot of a drowned woman still at the wheel of her car or the preacher looming over a bed, Cortez constructs shots that unsettle, reminding the viewer of the uneven landscape in our own heads. Wally Pfister’s cinematography for The Dark Knight Rises, although burdened with obsessive special effects, also resonates with this dark subterranean subconscious. Inspired by a Wagnerian grandiosoty and the final macabre days of the French Revolution, Pfister does not allow the Batman, hence all of us, to escape this morass of humanity. More a collection of brooding images, these films are better in pieces, isolated fragments, allowing us the freedom to drift through our thoughts.
Hannah Arendt offers a devastating portrait of humanity in Eichmann in Jerusalem, an assemblage of five successive articles written in 1963 for The New Yorker. It is in this work that Arendt coined the phrase, “the banality of evil”, positing that the mass murder perpetrated by the Nazis was not as much a thing of malevolence as it was of bureaucracy. She explains how words were used as weapons, to indoctrinate and then engineer the mass murders. Death camp architect Heinrich Himmler referred to the Holocaust as follows: “These are battles which future generations will not have to fight again.” Eichmann believed the “battles” to be geflugelte Worte (meaning “winged words” or words from classic literature), when in reality they were only the tools of propaganda.
Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”
In other words, not only does Eichmann not acknowledge the evil of his work, neither does he understand how the evil was disseminated. Arendt goes on to cite a story of a leader speaking to Bavarian peasants in 1944: “The Fuhrer in his goodness has prepared for the whole German people a mild death through gassing in case the war should have an unhappy end.”
Goebbels family – all of whom died of cyanide
Arendt’s text reveals how the people of Germany were indoctrinated as a cult, who were willing to go to the bitter end to satisfy their leader not out of malice but because “honor is loyalty”. Therefore it should not come as a surprise that Eichmann maintained his innocence in the extermination of millions; he and his Nazi brethren were gassed by their own words.