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Munchhausen 1943 - Film Review

Munchhausen was released in Germany in 1943. I saw it recently for the second time on Turner Classic Movies. I'm grateful that TCM has shown this film.

I've been watching many films on TCM lately. I'm reviewing some of them on my blog at I hope you will visit and perhaps send in some of your own comments. Now on with this review.

Munchhausen has amazing special effects for its time and is quite beautiful overall. But I find this film unsettling for at least two reasons.

First, it was made during the horrible years of the Second World War. Germany was locked in a battle to the death with the Soviet Union. Casualties were enormous. But even worse than the battle casualties were the massive civilian deaths. People were slaughtered for no other reason than being born into a particular ethnic or religious group.

My point is that this film was made at the same time that unprecedented horror was going on all around. Much of this horrow was perpetrated by Germany. Yet Munchhausen is such a beatiful film. How can a nation that produces such extraordinary cinema dedicate so much energy to slaughter?

Keep in mind that Munchhausen is not a propaganda film. It's a great artistic and technical achievement. The Nazi censors found it to have no political value.

There is one scene in which topless women frolic in a huge indoor pool. I was surprised that this would pass the censors in Nazi Germany. I'm confident this scene never would have been allowed in the United States. Apparently the German censors were less concerned about showing the female body in an artistic context than American censors. What I found very strange was watching these women splashing around and having a wonderful time, while all over the world people were fighting and dying.

There is another scene in which the Baron comments on the French Revolution and how the French had been chopping off heads in the name of reason. Obviously the Baron disapproved. This was at the same time that Germany was chopping off heads in the name of the Fatherland and the German people.

Another reason I found this film unsettling is that Baron Munchhausen surrenders his immortality at the end because he doesn't want to go on living forever without his beloved wife. His wife is growing old and the Baron wants to grow old with her.

I am disturbed by the Baron's choice. Perhaps the idea is that the Baron from his perspective understood something that an ordinary mortal human could not. But I still find the conclusion somewhat depressing. I would have preferred to see the Baron live on.

Obviously this film is a work of fantasy and some may say I am taking it too seriously. Perhaps, but I find myself drawn into this film's world in a way that seldom happens with other films in the fantasy genre.


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