'The Empire of Crime'
—Silence! You have no idea. No one has any idea what kind of phenomenal, superhuman mind has come to an end with Dr. Mabuse's death. This mind would have laid waste to our whole rotten world, which is long overdue for destruction. This godless world, devoid of justice and compassion, consisting only of selfishness, cruelty and hatred. This mind would have destroyed mankind, which itself knows only destruction and extermination and which could only have been saved in its final hour through terror and horror.
—Mabuse the criminal?
—Mabuse the genius! His intellectual legacy would have turned your world, with its police protection, on its head!
A conversation between Prof. Dr. Baum and Inspector Lohmann in the morgue over the corpse of recently demised Dr. Mabuse.
Later, in his study, Dr. Baum reads notes left by the brilliant madman:
—"The Empire of Crime."
—The empire of crime.
—"Humanity's soul must be shaken to its very depths, frightened by unfathomable and seemingly senseless crimes. Crimes that benefit no one, whose only objective is to inspire fear and terror."
—Because the ultimate purpose of crime is to establish the endless empire of crime. A state of complete insecurity and anarchy, founded upon the tainted ideals of a world doomed to annihilation. When humanity, subjugated by the terror of crime, has been driven insane by fear and horror, and when chaos has become the supreme law, then the time will have come for the empire of crime.
These excerpts are from Fritz Lang's movie The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. To quote the blurb from the back of Criterion's recent, stunning release:
Lang put slogans and ideas expounded by the Nazis into the mouth of a madman, warning his audience of an imminent menace, which was soon to become a reality. Nazi Minister of Information Joseph Goebels saw the film as an instruction manual for terrorist action against the government and banned it for "endangering public order and security."
I'll reserve comment on this film for another day. I'll just mention that it's an extraordinary film, simultaneously of its time, ahead of its time, and prescient for our time.
(And, on a technical level, Lang, as one of cinema's first true geniuses, really understood the power of sound. He exploited film's new expressive capability with tremendous power, using sound design as sophisticated as anything Lynch or Fincher have done.)
[Side note: Criterion has really outdone themselves this time with the most gorgeous transfer I've ever seen of an old classic. They are to be commended for their outstanding and loving restoration of this strange and important movie.]
From the sublime to the ridiculous; from an early German genius to a contemporary Hollywood hack — a (very) brief look at Swordfish. Though Swordfish may be ridiculous Hollywood hackery, it does serve an important function in shining a light into the mirror of our times.
I suggested several months ago a double-feature that would help people understand Murka from inside and out. I think the Testament of Dr. Mabuse and Swordfish would also make for another excellent double-feature, this time to help understand the calculus between power, politics, ethics, and terrorism.
I will let the viewer make the connections, but I'll leave you with this excerpt between Gabriel Shear (an Israeli intelligence officer) and Stanley Jobson (hacker extraordinaire):
—Against my better judgment, I'm going to tell you who I am.
—Don't bother. I know who you are.
—Do you? I think you think I'm a bank robber. But the truth is, that I'm just like you.
—Like me? No. Because you're a murderer.
—That I am, and worse. Much worse. But I do have ethics. Rules to which I adhere.
—Look, I have no idea why the fuck you're telling me all this.
—Well, if you listen, then you'll know. You asked who those men were. I'm gonna tell you. J. Edgar Hoover started a secret organization in the 1950s called Black Cell. It's just to protect our freedoms in this country at all costs.
—I don't care about any of this. All I care about is my daughter.
—I'm talking about your daughter. I'm talking about you, your daughter, and 200 million other Americans who take their freedoms for granted.
—You don't understand what it takes to protect those freedoms. That's my job, Stanley. To protect your way of life.
—So you and your band of lunatics are really stealing all this money just to protect little old me.
—That's right, Stanley. Because wars cost money.
—War? Who are we at war with?
—Anyone who impinges on America's freedom. Terrorist states, Stanley. Someone must bring their war to them. They bomb a church, we bomb 10. They hijack a plane, we take out an airport. They execute American tourists, we tactically nuke an entire city. Our job is to make terrorism so horrific that it becomes unthinkable to attack Americans.