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Monday, May 16th, 2011

CHC 2DI – 07

Historical Accuracy of “Swing Kids”

The movie “Swing Kids” was released in 1993 to much fanfare. No other movie had ever looked at the interesting times of pre-World War II Germany through the eyes of teenage boys. The young actors in the film guaranteed that it would get a lot of attention with Noah Wyle, Frank Whaley and Christian Bale all very popular teenaged heartthrobs in the making. The movie looks at the swing music scene in pre-war Hamburg, Germany. The main focus of the movie is the battle between the Hitler-loving “Hitler Jung” and the rebellious swing kids who try to hide their affection for music that is banned from German radios due to it Jewish and African American influences. The boys struggle with their love of the freedom that their music provides and staying out of trouble from the powerful Nazis that seem to be everywhere. The movie producers have done their homework and most of the movie follows the real historical swing movement in prewar Germany. Clearly, “Swing Kids” is a historically accurate film.

One of the really interesting parts of this movie is the amount of detail the producers used in making the background of the movie a true indication of real life prewar Germany. The uniforms that were worn by the HJ in the movie are very accurate to the real ones worn in Hamburg in the late 1930’s. Similarly, the director made sure that all the music that is listened to and played are from this precise moment in time. Some of the main musicians that are referred to, like Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Count Bassie, were very popular swing musicians during this period. “Swing Kids director Thomas Carter did his homework in this movie” ( ) From the uniforms, to the music, to the propaganda posters that were shown throughout the movie, this movie stayed true to its historical authenticity.

The main characters in this movie are clearly fictional. There was no Thomas Berger, Peter Mueller or Arvid in documented history from Hamburg, Germany that were into swing music in prewar Germany. However, the director tried to have these characters based on real people that were alive during this time. It is very easy to see some young boys in Germany who fell in line with the teachings of Hitler and gave up their affinity for swing music like the original hep cat Emil. There were countless boys who avoided time in the “Hitler Youth” like Peter did too. Finally, “there were many boys, like Thomas, who turned in their own fathers to the Nazis as a way of showing their loyalty to the Fuhrer”. ( ) The use of these fictional characters brings the audience closer in touch with the director’s vision and even though they are not based on real people at the time, they still contribute to the historical accuracy in their separate roles.

Lastly, the main events in this movie are incredibly accurate. The Nazi occupation of the Sudetenland is referred to early in the film and other references to Hitler’s advances are heard throughout the movie. The battle between the Hitler Youth and the teenaged rebels throughout Germany is also well known. The overall treatment of the Jews is also well depicted throughout the movie as seen when the Jewish owned store is closed down and the contents taken away by the Nazis and the harassment of the young Jewish boy at the beginning of the movie. Once again, this fictional movie does not try to convince the audience that the exact events in the movie took place, but rather that they serve as fictional stories that tell the real history of the prewar swing music scene in Hamburg and throughout Germany. “Thomas Carter did a great job in recreating the frightening mood and powerlessness of the youth in this terrible time and place in world history.” ( ) Great time and efforts were made by the production company to make sure that this movie truly captured the historical accuracy that a movie about the Nazis deserves.

Clearly, the efforts of Thomas Carter did a great job in insuring that the historical accuracy of the movie stands the test of time. The evils of the Nazis has been shown in lots of different movies over the last 66 years since they were defeated. “Inglorious Basterds”, “Schindler’s List”, “Saving Private Ryan” and many others have all taken different approaches to showing the nastiness of the Nazis with various levels of concern for their historical accuracy. This movie looks at a different topic than all of them and does it with a greater regard for the mood of the teenagers which makes it resonate to the teenagers of society today. Many high school students will be able to see themselves more closely as they relate to Peter’s quest to meet girls while dealing with his husbandless mother, or Arvid’s feelings of loneliness in his era or even Thomas’ growing distance from his parents. As such, this movie is full of great lessons for high school students today. As the main father figure of the movie says “I see it’s true what they say about Germany today, it is our youth that lead the way.” Thankfully, some youths in the 1930’s took the lead of characters like Peter Mueller who stood up in the face of the Nazi onslaught. Even the present day Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was able to maintain his faith throughout these terrible times and he can serve as a symbol today for all youth who try to maintain their strength and sense of right in all the changing times in society in 2011 that teenagers find themselves in today.

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