The Architecture of Doom

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The Architecture of Doom
Undergångens arkitektur.jpg
Original titleUndergångens arkitektur
Directed byPeter Cohen
Produced byPeter Cohen
Written byPeter Cohen
Narrated byRolf Arsenius
Bruno Ganz (German) Sam Gray (English)
Music byPeter Cohen
Sven Ahlin
Richard Wagner (non-original music)
CinematographyMikael Cohen
Gerhard Fromm
Peter Östlund
Edited byPeter Cohen
Distributed bySandrew Film & Teater AB, Stockholm (1989)
Release date
Running time
123 minutes
LanguageSwedish (Also German and English versions)

The Architecture of Doom (Swedish: Undergångens arkitektur) is a 1989 documentary by Swedish director Peter Cohen and narrated by Rolf Arsenius. German- and English-language versions have also been released.[1]


The film explores the obsession Adolf Hitler had with his own particular vision of what was and was not aesthetically acceptable and how he applied these notions while running the Third Reich.[2] His obsession with art he considered pure, in opposition to the supposedly degenerate avant-garde works by Jewish and Soviet artists, reveals itself to be deeply connected to Hitler's equally subjective and strict ideal of physical beauty and health.[3][4] A series of so-called degenerate art exhibitions were sponsored in order to depict modernist painting and sculpture as expressions of mental illness and general depravity.[5][6] Classical art that reinforced Hitler's personal taste, from Roman statuary to Dutch oil paintings, was scavenged from across Nazi occupied Europe.

Hitler is shown as an amateur architect, planning new building designs for the Third Reich that express his vision of a Nordic empire to rival those of classical antiquity. He is said to be intimately familiar with the grand opera houses of Europe. He visits Paris with a group of architects and artists who will be tasked with rebuilding Berlin to suit the Nazi aesthetic. Designs for new structures include depictions of the ruins they will make for distant generations.[7]

The film posits that Hitler's affinity for Greek and Roman antiquity is also expressed in his insistence of a totalizing strategy of war.[8] In what Hitler imagined to be the style of Sparta and Rome, war was meant to annihilate the enemy, enslaving the population and erasing the history of the vanquished.[9]


Although Caryn James found the period photos and film footage valuable, she thought that The Architecture of Doom was "simplistic" and "dangerously facile."[1] Washington Post reviewer Benjamin Forgey wrote that the film-maker "marshals his arguments and his evidence masterfully,"[3] and in a separate review Desson Howe said that the film was a "dryly effective documentary."[7] Austin Chronicle reviewer Steve Davis declared that the "impeccably researched documentary The Architecture of Doom formulates a convincing thesis about Hitler and his legacy."[6] Ed Simmons wrote in Crisis magazine that Cohen had made a "remarkably insightful film which shows the Führer not as a psychotic, an anti-Christ, or even Aryan Angel."[9]

In a 1999 Village Voice article, Michael Giacalone noted that "The Architecture Of Doom shows us that the control of ideals is at the very root of fascism's appeal."[10] And it was judged to be a "brilliantly written and visualized documentary" by Bright Lights Film Journal in 2001.[2] A 2006 review by Emanuel Levy acknowledged that "Bruno Ganz’s poignant narration and Richard Wagner’s music" contributed to the coherence of the documentary.[8]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b James, Caryn (30 October 1991). "Review/Film; Nazism as an Esthetic Ploy". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 August 2016. Peter Cohen, a Swiss [sic] film maker, draws on a wealth of still photographs and films from the period, from kitschy floats in Nazi parades to banal portraits that Hitler kept at home.
  2. ^ a b Morris, Gary (1 October 2001). "Beauty and the Beast: The Architecture of Doom, a Documentary". Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved 14 August 2016. The film dazzlingly shows just how much of the ideology Hitler created derived from, and later depended on, art.
  3. ^ a b Forgey, Benjamin (24 February 1992). "'The Architecture of Doom' (NR)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 August 2016. Peter Cohen's film 'The Architecture of Doom' is a brilliant two-hour documentation of the direct if paradoxical connection between 'beauty' and evil in Hitler's Third Reich.
  4. ^ "The Architecture Of Doom". Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Keene State College. Retrieved 14 August 2016. It claims that the underlying motivation was an extreme aesthetic aspiration to return beauty to the world - to counteract the miscegenation and degeneration that defiled it - through sheer violence.
  5. ^ "The Architecture Of Doom". CBS Interactive. Retrieved 14 August 2016. THE ARCHITECTURE OF DOOM is an excellent and compelling synthesis of several key concepts about the Third Reich; it is also a splendid example of the classic compilation documentary, using Nazi source material, including some rarely seen footage, to make its argument.
  6. ^ a b Davis, Steve (24 January 1992). "The Architecture of Doom". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  7. ^ a b Howe, Desson (21 February 1992). "'The Architecture of Doom' (NR)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  8. ^ a b Levy, Emanuel (20 April 2006). "Architecture of Doom, The: How Hitler Channeled Artistic Frustrations into Coherent Ideological Apparatus". Retrieved 16 August 2016. Hitler’s fixation with antiquity extended to his military aims; Cohen describes WWII as a hypermodern war with ancient objectives.
  9. ^ a b Simmons, Ed (1 May 1992). "Film: Hitler as Failed Artist". Crisis Magazine. Bedford, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press. Retrieved 14 August 2016. A better, more exact title would have been, since the movie focuses solely on the Führer, The Architect of Doom because Adolf Hitler was indeed an architect of magnificent vision.
  10. ^ a b Giacalone, Michael (26 October 1999). "The fine art of hate". The Village Voice. Retrieved 14 August 2016. But perhaps the most disturbing film being shown is Peter Cohen's 1989 documentary The Architecture Of Doom, which approaches the Nazi era with an austerity and discipline that most other filmmakers are unable to maintain.
  11. ^ "Annual Archives / 1991: Programme - Undergangens Arkitektur". Berlinale. Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Architecture in Film - THE ARCHITECTURE OF DOOM (1989, Peter Cohen)". Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. Drexel University. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  13. ^ "Architecture in Film - THE ARCHITECTURE OF DOOM (1989, Peter Cohen)". AIA Philadelphia. Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  14. ^ UGA News Service (25 April 2014). "Georgia Museum of Art to screen 'Crimes Against Culture' film series". Online Athens. Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved 14 August 2016.

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