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The Most Important Art: Film Propaganda in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Lenin described Cinema as "the most important art" for the dissemination of revolutionary propaganda, a view that was endorsed wholeheartedly by the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. This course will examine the role of film propaganda in the creation of ideological consensus in the two major totalitarian regimes of the 20th Century. Examples of both "official" and entertainment films will be studied.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No prior knowledge required.

Content of Course

  1. The needs of the Revolution 1. The USSR and Three Songs of Lenin (Dziga Vertov 1934). An examination of the methods used by soviet filmmakers to propagate Bolshevik ideology.
  2. The needs of the Revolution 2. Nazi Germany and The Triumph of the Will. (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935). The building of the cult of Hitler and the Fuhrerprinzip in both documentary and feature films.
  3. The anti-German film: Alexander Nevsky. ( Sergei M. Eisenstein &Dmitri Vasilyev, 1938). How the USSR portrayed the threat of Fascist Germany in a period of international tension.
  4. The Anti-Britsh film: Ohm Kruger.( Hans Steinhoff 1941). The Nazi reading of the British role in the South African War 1902) and the construction of "perfidious Albion" in Nazi cinema.
  5. The Stalin cult: The Fall of Berlin (Mikheil Chiaureli 1949). The process of the deification of Stalin in post-war Soviet cinema.
  6. The lessons of the past: Kolberg (Veit Harlan, 1945).The end of the Third Reich. Goebbels' inspiration for "the final victory".

Teaching method(s)

Full screenings with introductory lectures, followed by group discussions for close analysis of each film.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • analyse and identify the process of constructing film imagery for the purpose of propaganda;
  • understand the differing ideological needs of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany;
  • identify the limits of film propaganda.


Core Readings


Gillespie, David, (2000) Early Soviet Cinema: Innovation, Ideology and Propaganda, London, The Wallflower Press. Leiser, Erwin, (1974), Nazi Cinema, London, Secker & Warburg. Welch, David, (2002) Propaganda and the German Cinema 1933-45, London, I.B.Taurus.

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.

Student support

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