Synopsis by Hal Erickson
It would be nice if we could view the German historical epic Der Grosse Koenig (The Great King) objectively. This is, after all, a sweeping biography of Friedrich the Great, tracing the life of the fabled Prussian leader from his early setbacks to his ultimate victory over the Austrians at the end of the Seven Years' War. This is the heroic stuff from which greats films are made (vide Lawrence of Arabia, El Cid et. al.) However: Der Grosse Koenig was filmed at the behest of Nazi minister-of-Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, and directed by Veidt Harlan, the man responsible for that most-reprehensible of anti-Semitic films, Jud Suss. Thus, it isn't surprising that the film utilizes the historical facts at its disposal to prime the pumps for the Third Reich. Playing the title role is Paul Wegener, who during the Hitler regime was named Actor of the State, and who like Harlan compromised his talent on behalf of Der Fatherland. Der Grosse Koenig won the Venice Film Festival Award and the Mussolini prize, though odds are the contests were fixed. On the strength of Der Grosse Koening, Veidt Harlan was assigned to direct the infamous money-squandering propaganda picture Kollberg, which in its own spendthrift way contributed to the ultimate downfall of Nazi Germany.
hero, leader, war