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Fascist Aesthetics

by H. K. ‡
Atlas – a symbol of raw strength and willpower – by Lee Lawrie with the help of Rene Paul Chambellan. “Fascism is theater.” ~Jean Genet Susan Sontag’s article Fascinating Fascism on Leni Riefenstahl and, more broadly, fascism in art sparked my interest in creating a list of films (and assorted art works in other media) that have fascist aesthetics. Let me make it clear up front that by including them on this list I am not necessarily labeling these works or their creators “fascist”, but rather pointing out that they adhere to one or more of the trademarks of fascist art as listed by Ms. Sontag. Segments of Fascinating Fascism which outline… Read more

Atlas – a symbol of raw strength and willpower – by Lee Lawrie with the help of Rene Paul Chambellan.

“Fascism is theater.”
~Jean Genet

Susan Sontag’s article Fascinating Fascism on Leni Riefenstahl and, more broadly, fascism in art sparked my interest in creating a list of films (and assorted art works in other media) that have fascist aesthetics. Let me make it clear up front that by including them on this list I am not necessarily labeling these works or their creators “fascist”, but rather pointing out that they adhere to one or more of the trademarks of fascist art as listed by Ms. Sontag.

Segments of Fascinating Fascism which outline the key aesthetics of fascist art:

“Hence mass athletic demonstrations, a choreographed display of bodies, are a valued activity in all totalitarian countries; and the art of the gymnast, so popular now in Eastern Europe, also evokes recurrent features of fascist aesthetics; the holding in or confining of force; military precision.”

“More generally, they flow from (and justify) a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, extravagant effort, and the endurance of pain; they endorse two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude. The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication or replication of things; and the grouping of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader-figure or force. The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transactions between mighty forces and their puppets, uniformly garbed and shown in ever swelling numbers. Its choreography alternates between ceaseless motion and a congealed, static, ‘virile’ posing. Fascist art glorifies surrender, it exalts mindlessness, it glamorizes death.”

Richard Wagner’s political and social ideologies – at times being anarchist, nationalist, anti-Semitic, socialist and reactionary – are confusing at best, but his is the music that best achieves the oppressive hypnosis described above. Of course, I am aware that such conclusions and relations might never have been drawn had it not been for Adolf Hitler’s deep admiration for Wagner.

The National Fascist Party’s headquarters in Rome, with the mighty and unblinking visage of Benito Mussolini watching his subjects at all times. Si – “yes” in Italian – appears about one hundred times around him.

A Nazi office building designed by Albert Speer. Simple, yet imposing; sterile, yet sexual; utterly fascist.

A Nuba man who flawlessly personifies masculinity both in his physique and his calm, yet intimidating expression, donning traditional decorations in a photograph from Leni Reifenstahl’s book The Last of the Nuba.

Suggestions, criticisms, etc. are welcome.

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