In winter of 1971 the Hollywood studio Paramount began the production of a film based on the bestseller Memories: Hitler and the Third Reich seen from within, from Albert Speer Speer was not an individual, but he was the architect of Nazism, the man who created the stage sets for the rallies of Adolf Hitler, the one who erected the chancellery to the taste of the Führer and considered building a delusional Berlin overflowing with fascist buildings, and who from 1941 until the end of World War II led the Ministry of Armament and Ammunition, with 14 million slaves – workers, he called them – at his service.
In spite of everything, Speer was only sentenced to 20 years in jail at the Nuremberg trials, time he spent to fix the image of the “good Nazi” in the collective subconscious, and to secretly read and write his memoirs and other books in which claimed to have known nothing about concentration camps or the final solution until almost the end of the war. From his autobiography at the beginning of the seventies, one million copies had been sold (now more than three million), and that was the reason for Paramount’s interest and the meeting in that winter of Speer, happy for the possibility of linking his name to Hollywood, and a young screenwriter, Andrew Birkin, protected from Stanley Kubrick, to write the script.
“Everyone behaved like little children,” recalls Belgian-born Israeli documentary filmmaker Vanessa Lapa. He has dedicated four and a half years of his life to Speer goes to Hollywood, an outstanding documentary released in the Berlinale and based on the 40 hours of recordings between Birkin and Speer in the village where he lived in Heidelberg (Germany). “When I presented in New York The decent [su documental previo sobre Himmler]”, Lapa told yesterday in Berlin, “a man told me this story. There is no surprising material, but these conversations had never been heard. Birkin[wholaterbecamefamousasascreenwriterof[quesehizofamosoposteriormentecomoguionistadeThe name of the rose] he had the success of digitizing the recordings years ago, although they are in a very bad state. “
In those 40 hours of talks in which they reviewed the first and second versions of the script, Birkin and Speer review the life of the architect, something Speer takes advantage of to speak without inhibitions and alter his biography. Since 1931, when he was 26 years old, he saw Hitler for the first time “in a hopeless moment for Germany” and joined the Nazi Party a year later, until his promotion by the Third Reich organization chart. “I started designing the sets of the rallies,” says Speer on screen, “and two years later I was already friends with Hitler.” The dictator relied on him to design and build a chancery according to his ideals, and would have built up a whole Nazi Berlin of bulky stone buildings, had it not been for World War II. Speer was appointed Minister of Armament and Ammunition in 1941, had at his disposal 14 million – he himself provides the figure – of slaves from concentration camps. “It was a great manipulator,” says Lapa. “In the Nuremberg trials, he defended himself by saying he knew nothing and even tried to attack Hitler at the end of the war.” The judges believed him, even though the Spanish photographer Francesc Boix He pointed out as an Auschwitz visitor in 1943, and that subsequent investigations have shown that the frustrated assassination was invented. “He blamed the dead on the trains to Fritz Sauckel, director of the slave labor program, denied having been in Himmler’s famous speech at the Conference of Pose in October 1943 where he detailed the Holocaust … Luckily, time has put Speer in his place. “
Why was the movie not made? In Speer goes to Hollywood two conversations of Birkin are heard with Carol Reed, director chosen to perform the biopic, after finishing two versions of the script. “Reed is the only one who behaved like an adult, and he saw clearly that this was an image wash for Speer. And he refused to go further, in a resounding and clairvoyant manner,” Lapa emphasizes. “Actually, Speer was not even a great artist, as an architect he was only interested in the bigger, the better. And there are no good Nazis, something that today, with the rising wave of the extreme right, we should keep in mind” .
Paramount reached the point of considering hiring Mark burns (Death in Venice, House of Living Dead) to embody Speer and Donald Pleasence to resurrect Hitler. “Birkin told me he remembered that they had done camera tests with Pleasence. And it became my obsession. For a year and a half I was looking for them until I found the footage at the British Film Institute,” says Vanessa Lapa. Pleasence appears on the screen dressed and wearing makeup, imitating Hitler between jokes and truth.