“The Devil’s Mistress”

Now we can go out and about more. On Sunday, for the first time since the lockdown, we visited relatives who live near the Norfolk coast. While there we had a beachfront walk:

[Hunstanton, Norfolk. Photo by me, July 5, 2020.]

I tend to write in the mornings. I have also always been an early riser. But not this early recently:

[From my Instagram Stories. Potton sky, early morning. Photo by me, July 7, 2020.]

I could not sleep. I went downstairs and through the lounge doors watched the moon dropping. I sat for a few minutes and actually scribbled some more thoughts for the next book.

I did manage to go back to sleep afterwards for a while at least.

Last night, the Mrs. went down to London to spend a night with her (since March) widowed mum. That meant the house was mine alone. Sooooo…

[From my Instagram Stories. The Devil’s Mistress. Photo by me, July 7, 2020.]

…I decided to watch a 2016 Czech film on Netflix about the life of Czech actress Lída Baarová.

As one does.

Baarová died in 2000 and is famous now mostly for having found herself pursued by and eventually in an affair in the late-1930s with Nazi German propaganda minister (and very married) Joseph Goebbels, and nearly all of the film’s action takes place before the Second World War begins. It is clearly not intended to be the history of the crimes of the Third Reich. Probably unexpectedly some of it also comes across as a bit “soap opera-ish” – especially early on, when it is primarily about a non-German actress who just wants to be “a star” in Berlin and is obviously not politically very sharp.

The film’s IMDB ratings are all over the place – from “1” to “10.” It is certainly NOT the worst film ever made (a “1”); nor is it a perfect (“10”) film. What it is is different and presents a biography to the world that is little known (outside of her native country). Insofar as it is about her narrow and at times disturbing personal life concentrated between the years 1934-39, and again postwar, it works pretty well while keeping that perspective firmly in mind.

Some reviewers deride it, however, for its approach, with one even claiming it “humanizes” the Nazis. Unfortunately it needs to be remembered that Nazis were humans – deranged racist murderous humans, of course, but humans all the same, and their often very “ordinariness” should serve as a cautionary reminder to us all even today. “The Devil” most likely will not come at us with blood dripping from his fangs, but will on the surface probably flatter us and seem occasionally even charming, and, yes, in ways imperfect and maybe a bit odd, true, but also as “perfectly reasonable” at times too – and before we know it, we are ensnared.

We see in the film the pressure put on German filmmakers (it was still the early days of the regime and the Nazis had not yet secured a firm grip on all institutions) to make and to cast “Nazi-appropriate” films (Hitler, for instance, comments to her face about her not being German and “taking” a role from a German actress); we experience how distinctly uncomfortable it feels witnessing her having first caught the (romantic?) attention of the unpredictable and menacing Hitler (who seems over tea with her to be comparing her to his – unmentioned by name – niece who had killed herself in 1931); we follow the development of the point to the film in her having attracted the creepy (to put it mildly) Goebbels (who seems in his bizarre way eventually genuinely to have come to love her); we see her in a car while unexpectedly witnessing “Kristallnacht” unfolding on a Berlin street; and we look on at how she is mid-late-film treated by the Berlin Nazi police chief, and more. In asserting the film makes Nazis look at all “positive”… frankly I do not know what film any such reviewer(s) sat through. Because it is not this one.

It is mostly in Czech and in German. A bit of English also pops up unexpectedly a couple of times from her when she is approached “1936-ish” by a Hollywood studio scout – I think he was from MGM – who is after her to come to America. He lays it on thick in that Hollywood-stereotypical way, and although he does not outright say it he does come pretty close to declaring, “Eh, baby, I can make you a star.”

All things considered, even if she had flopped across the pond that would have been far better for her: Miss Baarová should indeed have gone to Hollywood.

Mid-film, I paused to make a coffee:

[From my Instagram Stories, July 7, 2020.]

Afterwards, I jokingly asked that rhetorical question on Instagram.

[From my Instagram Stories, July 7, 2020.]

Not long after the film ended, I noticed that above had also popped up in my Instagram as a reminder: upstate New York a year ago.

I write about it again and again, and have been doing so once more in the new manuscript. It is hard to know when we will get there again. In fact, prompted by that film, for the first time, given the terrible state of the world, and how uncertain health may be, it actually crossed my mind last night that there is a greater chance than ever before that I might never return.

So I did not go to bed feeling particularly good.

Then I awoke this morning to find this in my Instagram:

[From my Instagram DMs, July 8, 2020.]

And I chuckled. I should have expected that. Ask a question on the net, and you receive an answer. 🙂

Have a good day, wherever you are.

5 thoughts on ““The Devil’s Mistress”

  1. Your muse is pretty intriguing this time, dear Robert! I wonder what is going to come out of this? Inspiration & more Eastern Europe’s mood to you! There are plenty of hidden cultural treasures there.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.