Of all the senior figures in the Nazi Party, Albert Speer was perhaps the most interesting. Hitler’s architect, he was entrusted with a huge programme of works to rebuild and transform Germany and beyond. As part of the Führer’s inner circle, Speer was afforded opportunities he could only have dreamed of; building such iconic buildings as the Reich Chancellery and rallying grounds in Nuremberg. He was rewarded with an ever-increasing portfolio, including being responsible for increasing wartime production. His department was also responsible for ‘resettling’ Jews.
After being tried and sentenced to twenty years for his culpability in the Holocaust, he became something of a celebrity. Writing two autobiographies and milking the intense public interest. He consistently denied any knowledge of the horrors of the concentration camps, regardless of how unlikely that assertation was. In 1971, British screenwriter Andrew Birkin recorded forty hours of interviews with the aging Nazi, with the intention of making a film. This story is picked up in Speer Goes to Hollywood.
Speer Goes to Hollywood is the result of a decade long quest to unearth archive footage of the period. This is the strength of Vanessa Lapa’s film and what makes it worth watching. Speer is charismatic and slippery, clearing charming his interviewer and easily evading any difficult questions. Their conversations are voiced by actors, which really doesn’t help, and the lack of serious challenge is frightening. Speer Goes to Hollywood is a flawed documentary which will appeal to anyone fascinated by the period.
Speer Goes to Hollywood premieres at Film Forum on 29 October.