A disturbing and fascinating short documentary that, in an alternative universe, would be at the center of a major debate concerning aesthetics vs. ethics. We hear and see the journal entries and photos of a grunt soldier at his mundane tasks. He complains about the food, gripes about the weather, commits the occasional crime against humanity. Between his expressions of blind/bland patriotism and his yearnings for left behind love there are summary executions, annoying train cargoes en route to “special treatment,” pesky prisoners that are easier to shoot than process. Boy, the coffee in the army sucks, but it’s good to know that we’re fighting for the Fatherland — can’t wait ’til I’m done here and can go back. The diaries of “Gerhard M.” could be exhibit A in defending the theories of Stanley Milgram.
The controversy is this: just because Gerhard M. was blase about the horror he was perpetrating, need the filmmaker use that attitude as a gimmick? Irinia Gefrovich scores her film (which is simply a slide show from Gerhard M.’s vault) to proud Teutonic pop songs of the era. This was Gerhard M.’s soundtrack, but the incongruous effect on the audience is something specific. The best example I can think of is from Kubrick — Malcolm McDowell singing “Singin’ in the Rain” during the rape of the author’s wife. It was controversial enough in fiction — is it downright vulgar over “real” images?