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Veit HarlanThe Life and Work of a Nazi Filmmaker$
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Frank Noack

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813167008

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813167008.001.0001

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The Girl in the Water

The Girl in the Water

(p.118) 11 The Girl in the Water
Veit Harlan

Frank Noack

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter deals with the debut of Swedish actress Kristina Söderbaum in Nazi cinema and her impact on Harlan’s life. After choosing her to play the female lead in Jugend (Youth, 1938), the adaptation of the play that had provided him with his breakthrough in the theater, he not only falls in love with and marries her but also chooses her to be the dominant presence in his future films. In the play, the character Söderbaum plays is shot, but in the film she drowns herself, earning her the nickname “Reich’s Water Corpse.” In Jugend and in its follow-up Verwehte Spuren (Lost traces, 1938), Harlan directs her in a sadistic and often voyeuristic manner. Thematically, both films are more personal than Harlan’s previous ones. They deal with the early loss of parents, inherited sin, incest, religious dogma, and distrust in a relationship. Both are costume films set in the previous century and, despite their apolitical nature, are admired by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels.

Keywords:   Jugend, Adolf Hitler, drowning, incest, Joseph Goebbels, Kristina Söderbaum, Reich’s Water Corpse, sadism, religious dogma, theater adaptation, voyeurism, Verwehte Spuren

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