The Role of the Nazi Film in Kiss of the Spider Woman

The Role of the Nazi Film in Kiss of the Spider Woman

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The Role of the Nazi Film in Kiss of the Spider Woman


In Kiss of the Spider Woman Molina uses his memories of classic movies
as a means of escape. He is particularly drawn to melodramatic movies
with a strong romantic theme, which is the central focus of his
retelling of the movies. On one level, Molina wishes to escape the
oppression and boredom of his prison cell. He retells the movies to
Valentin as a means to entertain them both during their long hours of
imprisonment. For Molina, the movies function as a form of escapism
from the social oppression he suffers as a homosexual. In the "Nazi
Film" Molina identifies with the female character, showing that the
movie also represent for him an escape from his designated sex as a
man, for he prefers to think of himself as a woman, an idyllic woman
at that.

The "Nazi Film" also serves as a parallel story line through the film
to help us understand the characters of Molina and Valentin. In the
film the heroine Leni Lanison is a French singer passionately in love
with a German general. Each of these characters is mirrored by the
"real" characters. Molina imagines himself to be the heroine and
Valentin the dashing German general. In the film Leni is part of the
resistance underground until she falls for the general. It is at this
point that she becomes a reluctant warrior in the cause and turns
sides to help the German. Leni's betrayal of her own country for the
man she loves foreshadows the plight of Molina and Valentin.

In our reality, Molina is a reluctant pawn of the prison warden and a
police agent to gather information about Valentin and his cause. Once
Molina decides he is in love with Valentin, his allegiances change as
well and he ends up putting his life at risk and sacrificing it for
the cause, just as Leni had done on screen.

Like Leni in the film, Molina was not a "revolutionary" he simply was
in love.

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He admits that politics are not important to him, but he
contacts Valentin's radical friends not to aide the revolution, but to
aide his lover. In both cases, the "females" die a heroic death for
the man that they adore.

Valentin is well represented by the "Nazi Film" as well. The character
of the German general is superimposed over that of Valentin. During
their discussions, Valentin finds Molina's obsessing over the romantic
and the dismissal of the political infuriating. Valentin believes such
fantasies are trivial and self indulgent compared to his realism and
activism, mirrored by the conviction of the German general.

In both cases, the end result is the same. It can be argues that the
death of the hero(ine) is directly caused by their blinding love and
faith in the hero. Leni dies in the arms of the German general, he
realizing what he has caused, and Molina's relationship with Valentin
dies in the embrace at the end of Molina's imprisonment which has been
shortened through contact with Valentin.

The "Nazi Film" in Kiss of the Spider Woman is multi-purposeful for
the audience. A delightful divergence from the dreary minimalism of
the prison cell, and a deeper telling of the theme of romanticism and
escapism through fantasy while paralleling the lives and loves of the
two men thrust together.
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