“The Mortal Storm” (1940) – Note the Similarities
I had the opportunity to see this film yesterday. It caught my attention quickly as the similarities glared at me. One of the rare anti-Nazi films released by Hollywood prior to America’s entry to the War, the parallels to today’s “Might makes Right” administration were amazing.
The film stars James Stewart as a German who refuses to join the rest of his small Bavarian town in supporting Nazism. He falls in love with Freya Roth (Margaret Sullavan), the daughter of a Junker mother and a “non-Aryan” father. The Mortal Storm was the last movie Sullavan and Stewart ever did together.
Freya and her father are implied to be Jews but the word “Jew” is never used, and they are only identified as “non-Aryans“; in addition, Freya’s half brothers are all members of the Nazi Party. Though it is understood that the film is set in Germany, the name of the country is rarely mentioned except at the very beginning in a short text of introduction. MGM purposely did not mention the name of the country or the religion of Freya’s family because of the large German market for its films, but it was to no avail—the movie infuriated the Nazi government and it led to all MGM films being banned in Germany. (Wikipedia)
The story is about a young German girl Freya Roth (Sullavan) engaged to a Nazi party member (Young) in 1933. When she begins to realize the true nature of his Nazi political views, she breaks the engagement and turns her attention to anti-Nazi Martin Breitner (Stewart).
Meanwhile, tensions brew surrounding the legendary Prof. Viktor Roth, much acclaimed for both his teaching and research. However, when the science he discovers contradicts the Nazi party agenda, he is quickly and quietly “taken out.”
Intolerance quickly mushrooms into a philosophical statement of “the good of the many” VS “individual freedoms,” (kind a like the here and now, huh?)
Later, while trying to flee the Nazi regime, Freya and Martin attempt to ski across the border to safety in Austria, (under the radar). Freya is gunned down by the Nazis (under reluctant orders from her ex-fiance, who has tried to spare her, but is constrained to “do his duty”). Martin, at her request, picks her up and skis into Austria so she can die in a free country.
Fascinating parallels to what is happening in America today. Supporters of the administration are completely intolerant of all who disagree with their positions on the many issues at hand. That dissension is reaching a boiling point where violence periodically erupts, as might makes right. The only way to survive is to fall below the radar, off the grid, self-sustaining.
If you haven’t seen this film, I recommend it. It is educational. Just sayin …