Przegląd Zachodniopomorski

ISSN: 0552-4245     eISSN: 2353-3021    OAI    DOI: 10.18276/pz.2015.3-02

Issue archive / z. 3 2015

Authors: Tomasz Kłys
dr hab., prof. UŁ, Uniwersytet Łódzki, Wydział Filologiczny, Instytut Kultury Współczesnej, Zakład Historii i Teorii Filmu
Keywords: Caligari Goebbels Fritz Lang dr Mabuse the German cinema
Year of publication:2015
Page range:16 (43-58)
Cited-by (Crossref) ?:


The last Weimar film by Fritz Lang, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse / Le Testament du Dr. Mabuse (1933), is commonly regarded as anti-Nazi. Such an opinion results, inter alia, from the fact that the film was not authorised to go on general release in the Third Reich and from the story according to which the director must have escaped from Germany in April 1933 after an alleged meeting with Goebbels, minister of propaganda. In the light of the documents revealed after the death of the director and the facts commonly known now it has turned out that the whole story had been Lang’s fabrication, it is a ‘conjured-up film’. Being an expatriate in the USA Lang strengthened the widespread conviction of the anti-Nazi character of his film by manipulating the translation of the subtitles while the French version of his film was being released in the USA in 1943. The director made further manipulations on the original material of the film when its German version was being released in the USA in 1952 under the title of The Crimes of Dr Mabuse; its anti-Nazi character was suggested by the dialogues in the English-language dubbingtranslated from the German language; the translation was not literal (word-for-word) in the least. Some additional fragments of the film were shot later in order to explain that the plot took place between 1932 and 1939 when Germany was ruled by ‘Hitler’s criminal gang’. It was just ‘Hilter’s criminal gang’ – according to this interpretation – that is synonymous with the gang of Mabuse/Baum. Just the reverse interpretation was suggested by the version of the film released by Goebbels in the Third Reich – some extra scenes (Rahmenhandlung) shot then suggested placing the action in the ‘gloomy’ times of the Weimar Republic ruled by the Jews.The analysis of the original, devoid of any manipulations, version of the film proves that Mabuse is an ‘empty space’ that may be ‘filled’ with various political and cultural meanings, but always connected with the authorities, with violence, crime, financial chicaneryand behind-the-scenes manipulation.Yet, instead of looking for a political interpretation of the film, it might be interesting to have a look at its aesthetic affiliations: the plot of The Last Will of Dr Mabuse surprisingly resembles the famous film by Robert Wiene Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari(1919), the last production of the Weimar Cinema. The two films describe criminal psychiatrists that became mad and eventually were locked in a mental hospital, which had been headed by them before.
Download file

Article file


1.Canetti E., Masa i władza, przeł. E. Borg, M. Przybyłowska, Czytelnik, Warszawa 1996.
2.Fischer R., Mörder – meurtrier – murderer: The Multi-lingual Versions of Fritz Lang’s „M”, książeczka dołaczona do edycji DVD filmu Fritza Langa M w serii „Masters of Cinema” (Eureka Entertainment, London 2010).
3.Fritz Lang. Leben und Werk. Bilder und Dokumente, red. R. Aurich, W. Jacobsen, C. Schnauber, Filmmuseum Berlin – Deutsche Kinemathek und jovis Verlag, Berlin 2001.
4.Gunning T., The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity, BFI Publishing, London 2000.
5.Kalat D., The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse: A Study of the Twelve Films and Five Novels, McFarland & Company Inc. Publishers, Jefferson (North Carolina) – London 2001.
6.Kierkegaard S., Albo – albo, przeł. J. Iwaszkiewicz, PWN, Warszawa 1976.
7.Kłys T., Dekada doktora Mabuse: Nieme filmy Fritza Langa, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, Łódź 2006.
8.Lang F., Autobiography, w: L.H. Eisner, Fritz Lang, Da Capo Press, New York 1986.
9.Lang F., Interviews, red. B.K. Grant, University of Mississippi Press, Jackson 2003.
10.McGilligan P., Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast, St. Martin’s Press, New York 1997.
11.Ott F.W., The Films of Fritz Lang, The Citadell Press, Seacaucus (New Jersey) 1979.
12.The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, edycja DVD, The Criterion Collection, New York 2004.
13.Werner G., Fritz Lang and Goebbels: Myth and Facts, „Film Quarterly” Spring 1990.
14.Widdig B., Culture and Inflation in Weimar Germany, University of California Press, Berkeley–Los Angeles–London 2001.