The comparison of two texts specifically constructed to convey a particular view of an event, situation or persona highlights the relationship between representation and meaning. “Seeds of Death” an anti-Nazi artwork by John Heartfield and “Stolz Der Nation” a fictional yet realistic Nazi propaganda film directed by Eli Roth both embody this notion of conflicting perspectives. Compositional elements such as techniques specific to medium of production and contextual reference formulate the basis of how meaning is presented and therefore perceived.
Heartfield implements several visual techniques, symbolism and contextual layering to communicate his perspective of the Nazi regime in World War Two. Iconography is an especially significant device he has utilized to characterise the Nazis. The text depicts a skeleton showering seeds shaped as swastika symbols over a burning battlefield. This associates the swastika, a contextually recognised icon of Nazi ideology, with the motif of death throughout the picture. This is reinforced through the vectored movement of the skeleton’s arm and swastika seeds motioning toward a small group of soldiers carrying a corpse in the background.
The colour palette of dark reds, white and black in the circumstance of war connotes a negative environment, especially considering they are those of the Nazi Party flag. A consuming smoke occupies almost half of the background of the text, almost devouring the foregrounded images. The smoke is symbolic of Germany brutally conquering all in their path, the smothering connotation of smoke emphasising the oppressive nature of the Nazis; smoke’s origin, fire, also symbolic of the destruction left in their wake.
The salient Nazi skeleton contrasted against the miniature soldiers in the background creates a power juxtaposition representing the totalitarian qualities affiliated with the Nazi Regime. Two factors fortify this idea, the lowered gaze of the soldiers against the dead straight eye line of the skeleton and the swastika seeds sprinkled above them. Mise-en-scene collectively integrates these techniques to shape a negative perspective of the Nazi Party. Stolz Der Nation” is a short film depicting one Nazi sniper defeating and entire American army from the top of an Italian bell tower. Roth conveys his view of the Nazis throughout World War Two by utilizing several elements of filmic construction. The Nazi Soldier is symbolic of Germany, fighting valiantly against the masses, conquering with willpower and superiority. Similar to the first text, Roth implements a motif of death but instead of attaching a negative connotation, he infers one of power and skill.
In order for Roth to glorify the Nazis, he must morally and physically undermine their enemy’s persona. He does this by presenting circumstances that support this idea. For instance, the American soldier using the baby as a shield to regain cover portrays them as selfish and evil; this is reinforced through a second situation where money was taken off a soldier’s corpse right after being shot. The sniper proclaims revenge against these vile acts and kills those responsible, consequently, forming a positive view of the Nazis.
Consistent low angle framing is used throughout the film to emphasise the sniper’s superiority, even his positioning, in a bell tower above everyone else, works to metaphorically impose this. Capturing the American soldiers from higher angles, in turn, makes them seem inferior. The American general expresses dialogue where he refuses to destroy the tower because of historical significance, even after a soldier has begged him to, showing a materialistic value over that of human life.
The pivotal point within the text displays a sea of ammunition shells, representing death, covering the bell tower’s floor. The sniper looks down, about to admit defeat, then begins to move the shells aside. At the bottom is a swastika he carved into the wood earlier. The sniper’s facial expression exhibits renewed determination and he destroys the remaining American soldiers. This symbolically aligns the swastika with hope and refers contextually to the eventual world unity Hitler wished to achieve.
Roth generates a positive perspective of the Nazi regime through the cumulative effect of filmic devices implemented. In conclusion, a text’s representation of events, situations or personalities through aspects of construction influence meaning. This allows the production of conflicting perspectives between two texts of the same subject to be produced. Medium of composition and utilized techniques associated, ultimately reflect the representation. Both Heartfield and Roth have demonstrated their views of the Nazi Party, it is within interpretation and comparison that personal truth is achieved.