Downfall (Der Untergang in German) is a dense, powerful, three-hour German film centered around Adolf Hitler‘s final days in power in Nazi Germany, but here on the Internet, it’s best known as grist for endless memes. There’s one famous scene in the 2004 movie where Hitler slams his hand against his desk, shouts “nein, nein, nein!” and generally flips out which has been repurposed to rants about getting banned from XBox Live, having problems with Windows Vista, the iPad … you name it.
But now, Constantin Film, the German film production and distribution company behind the film, is launching an aggressive, successful DMCA campaign to get the Hitler Downfall parodies taken off YouTube — though ironically, many people wouldn’t have heard of the original if it wasn’t for the waves of parodies.
The Open Video Alliance reports:
The Downfall meme is so well-established that it has literally become standard curriculum for digital moviemaking courses, as evidenced by this class’ page which counted 14 videos before the takedowns were issued (currently, only two of these videos remain playable).
For more on the genesis of the Downfall meme, see YouTOMB researcher Alex Leavitt’s study.
There are hundreds of Hitler Downfall videos, and it is unclear what will become of them. The burden of filing a counternotice or a claim of fair use to restore the video falls on individual users, so it will be difficult to reverse this action. We’ll be following this story as it develops.
On the one hand: It’s understandable that the film’s financial backers would want to keep a serious work from being treated as a joke, but that ship has already sailed: As the Open Video Alliance notes above, it’s already become a part of the culture. Moreover, at no cost to Constantin, the Internet reaction to Downfall has given it the sort of worldwide publicity that most low-budget WWII dramas can only dream of. And they’re also pretty clearly Fair Use.
Finally: The film’s director told New York Magazine that he’s actually a fan of the parodies: “The point of the film was to kick these terrible people off the throne that made them demons, making them real and their actions into reality. I think it’s only fair if now it’s taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like.”
The Daily What alerts us to this fitting, surreal response to the great Hitler Downfall takedown, which consists of Hitler saying “Nein” for 10 minutes straight. (It gets old at the seven-minute mark or so.)