On Saturday, April 24 at 5 PM and on Sunday, April 25 at 2:30 PM, MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art) will present two showings of Enrique Sánchez Lansch’s documentary film The Reichorchester: The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich. The film will be shown as part of KINO! 2010: New Films from Germany, the museum’s 31st annual survey of recent German cinema. Both the filmmaker and the producer, Ulli Pfau, will be present at both showings.

In 2007 the Berlin Philharmonic chose to celebrate its 125th anniversary year by highlighting a previously unknown chapter in its history—the years 1933-1945. Financed by the German Reich and held accountable by the Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, the Berlin Philharmonic was not only Germany’s flagship orchestra, but also an ambassador for the National Socialist regime, particularly on foreign tours.

In this documentary by Enrique Sánchez Lansch (RHYTHM IS IT!), the spotlight is on the orchestra itself: the musicians, the people, their individual destinies. Although its members were much less exposed than their principal conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler, they, like him, moved in circles close to the powers that bestowed privilege, and thereby encouraged people to shirk individual responsibility. The unique and microcosmic world of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra proves a fascinating subject; its former members give first-hand accounts of life in and around the orchestra. The film examines a wealth of previously unevaluated archive material, providing a highly authentic glimpse into the period under the swastika. It brings to life, in a manner as fascinating as it is sensitive, this chapter in the history of Germany and its capital, exploring the question: How does one tread the fine line between independence and individual responsibility?

Paula Mlyn

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