Cultural productions in the Third Reich often served explicit propaganda functions of legitimating racism and glorifying war and militarism. Likewise, the proliferation of domestic and romance films in Nazi Germany also represented an ideological stance. Rather than reinforcing traditional gender role divisions and the status quo of the nuclear family, these films were much more permissive about desire and sexuality than previously assumed. Focusing on German romance films, domestic melodramas, and home front films from 1933 to 1945, Nazi Film Melodrama shows how melodramatic elements in Nazi cinema functioned as part of a project to move affect, body, and desire beyond the confines of bourgeois culture and participate in a curious modernization of sexuality engineered to advance the imperialist goals of the Third Reich.
Offering a comparative analysis of Nazi productions with classical Hollywood films of the same era, Laura Heins argues that German fascist melodramas differed from their American counterparts in their negative views of domesticity and in their use of a more explicit antibourgeois rhetoric. Nazi melodramas, film writing, and popular media appealed to viewers by promoting liberation from conventional sexual morality and familial structures, presenting the Nazi state and the individual as dynamic and revolutionary. Some spectators objected to the eroticization and modernization of the public sphere under Nazism, however, pitting Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda against more conservative film audiences in a war over the very status of domesticity and the shape of the family. Drawing on extensive archival research, this perceptive study highlights the seemingly contradictory aspects of gender representation and sexual morality in Nazi-era cinema.