“Iron Sky” Have No Fear of the Moon Nazis

Fantasies of total power – Udo Kier as the new “Führer” Kortzfleisch
Fantasies of total power – Udo Kier as the new “Führer” Kortzfleisch | Photo (detail): © 2012 polyband Medien GmbH / TARJA JAKUNAHO

The evil spirit of Nazism is far from dead; it has survived – on the other side of the moon! This is the bizarre premise of “Iron Sky – We Come in Peace!” In Germany the film has made a successful start.

It seems like a wild conspiracy theory: in Timo Vuorensola’s keyed-up Nazi trash fantasy, the worst villains in history were able to escape after 1945 to the dark regions of space and there establish their “racially pure” society. The metal stronghold of the moon Nazis is a retro-futuristic version of Hitler’s construction project “Germania”, and their goals too have changed little: to unleash a third world war that will bring about the definitive final victory of Nazi ideology. On board for the insane enterprise are the new “Führer” Kortzfleisch, the dashing SS officer Klaus Adler, and his blonde girlfriend Renate Richter, an idealistic teacher with gaps in her historical knowledge: she believes that the Nazi propaganda is actually a message of peace.

Nazis from space – a parody of Hollywood clichés

In Germany the Finnish film had quite good box office results on the weekend of its release, with almost 130,000 viewers. It is rather unlikely that they included an above average number of right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis. The project, eagerly awaited – and financially sponsored – by a global Internet community, is a parody of well-known film stereotypes of Hollywood Nazis and American space adventures, from Star Wars to Independence Day. Allusions to historic films such as Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler satire The Great Dictator consort with trash elements from cheap exploitation movies such as Surf Nazis Must Die. Although the inhuman Nazi ideology is not presented in detail – the megalomaniac world conquerors are rather the embodiment of “evil as such” – the critical perspective, which allows itself some digs at current American war policy, is clearly recognizable. Early online advertising trailers of the film showed a white dove emptying its bowels on the iron head of an imperial eagle.

Can you do that? – Now only a rhetorical question

German critics raised the obligatory question of trivialization only rhetorically. In general the film was received positively, if not euphorically, as “really great trash fun” (Der Spiegel), harmless entertainment, or at least a welcome change. That we are allowed to laugh at the Nazis, it was noted, has been known after all since Chaplin. Moreover, the game of symbols with swastikas and SS uniforms is not aimed at provocation but rather at “our common fascination with totalitarian aesthetics” (Der Tagesspiegel). Only a few individual voices warned that the film thereby entangled itself, “surely unintentionally, in crypto-fascist legends” (Die Zeit). The consensus of almost all newspaper critics, both conservative and liberal, was that Iron Sky offers little more than harmless slapstick comedy, and that its humor loses steam in the second half.

Iron Sky hardly provoked a “serious” political and aesthetic discussion. This was still different in the case of Quentin Tarantino’s artistically much superior Hollywood production Inglourious Basterds. That this time the often quoted phrase of “playing with horror” was omitted suggests a further “normalization” of dealing with historical taboos. It seems that German critics were quite happy for once to lay aside the heavy ideology. Their feeling might be summarized in this way: Iron Sky is after all trash, and here in Germany we don’t do trash. As for the participation of German actors, everyone is used to that: Udo Kier and Götz Otto, for instance, are not least known for playing Nazis in Hollywood movies.

“Crowdfunding” – film funding per Internet

The unusual means of financing the film, on the other hand, were the object of considerable attention. Not only European funding, including German money, went into Vuorensola’s fan project; of the just 7.5 million euros production costs, close to a million was organized through so-called “crowdfunding” on the Internet. The universally acclaimed special effects of the space adventure film are indebted not least to the worldwide fan base. Initially inspired by Vuorensola’s legendary Star Wreck short films, then by his cleverly positioned marketing trailers, fans donated not only small amounts of money but also ideas for the plot and the characters. In the German cultural scene, which likes to blame official film promotion for being cumbersome and without daring, this innovative procedure aroused more fascination than did the gigantic spaceship in Nazi-Punk design. “The sort of film that movie-goers want to see looks like Iron Sky”, acknowledged the Berliner Zeitung. Even more generously we could say: this is the way in which a young, net savvy audience expresses its interest in the past. They don’t live on the other side of the moon – and that is good news.