/ 21 April 2010

For you, YouTube, the spoofs are over

Few film sequences lend themselves so readily to online parody as the German film Der Untergang (Downfall), which portrays Adolf Hitler’s deranged rant against betrayal in his besieged Berlin bunker.

The clip has been replayed on YouTube and other sites millions of times, with the dictator’s subtitles cunningly adapted to ridicule contemporary setbacks — usually of a less catastrophic nature.

But not, if the film’s producers have their way, for much longer. Constantin Films, the company that made the 2004 movie, is stepping up its campaign to assert its copyright to the material and demand that the lampoons are taken down.

One of the earliest spoofs involved the sullen Nazi leader being given the typed-up football results and learning that Sheffield United has been relegated. “Now we will have to live with this injustice,” the Führer fumes.

Other versions have the German actor, Bruno Ganz, ranting at the news that Oasis is splitting up, that Usain Bolt has broken the 100 metre record, or on being banned from playing his Xbox Live.

This is not the first time that the German film company has tried to prevent viral videos spawning spin-offs across the web. Earlier this year it was estimated that there were 68 different adaptations posted on YouTube and other platforms.

“Until recently, Hitler was demonised and portrayed not as a human being but as the devil himself,” remarked Daniel Erk, a German critic whose Hitler blog on the leftwing newspaper Taz is keeping track of the Führer’s appearances in popular culture and the media, from advertisements to Google requests and the surface of toast.

It may have been Spike Milligan who pioneered the Nazi satire industry with his bestselling book Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, but the internet , it appears, has enabled everyone to rerun history. —