Rammstein, this German band is well known both for its industrial music and its fiery stage presence, returns with a new song and its small provocative effect bringing its dose of controversy. A small analysis of images is necessary.
For those who don’t know, Rammstein is an industrial metal band of six German musicians, born in the former GDR, with a pronounced taste for staging and fire. The name is inspired by the aerial catastrophe of Ramstein, USA military base in Germany, of 1988. It sets the tone.
10 years after their last album, Liebe Ist für Alle da, Rammstein offers us Deutschland, a 9 minute and 22 seconds clip accompanied, the day before, by its teaser of 35 seconds and the controversy that goes with it. As often in the world of rock, provocation pays or rather sells. So it was to be expected and the number of articles about it must close to the number of albums they sold over the world.
So, this teaser, why do we talk so much about it? Because it presents four of the band’s members as prisoners of a concentration camp, rope to the neck, awaiting their death, before passing on to a white on black text announcing the date of the clip in Roman numerals.
Pushing realism, each member of the band has a triangle and/or a star, the most recognizable of which is worn by guitarist Paul Landers: the yellow star of David. The controversy over the use of the Holocaust for advertisement purposes erupts. But unfortunately, many stopped at this teaser and forgot the short film of just over 9 minutes it announced, and that definitely worth a look.
This short film begins with dark images, a stormy nightfall, a plan of Roman soldiers seen from above and this small text: Germania Magna, 16 A.D. So we are sent back in time, when the Roman Empire, a strategic and unwavering force of Europe, colonized and imposed its regime on all the surrounding peoples, federating them or crushing them.
These images of soldiers marching in the German forests are interspersed by the red images of the credits. Our soldiers, all interpreted by the members of the band as the majority of the other characters in the video, end up in front of a barbarian (historical reminder, at the time, a barbarian was simply a stranger, not coming from the Roman or the Greek peoples). This person turns around, and we see a black woman, knife in one hand, the singer’s head in the other, followed by a red image with the name of the song: Deutschland.
The association between the character played by Ruby Commey and the title of the song leaves no doubt: she is the personification of Germany. The end credits confirm this. The charge of the soldiers on her becomes, simply, the beginning of the following dark historical fresco. The continuation of the images is a huge leap in time: futuristic, we follow astronauts that we will see again at some points in the clip, as explorers who discover the ruins of the past of all the different aspect of Germany, up to the most special.
The continuation of the video is filled with references to the band’s aesthetic interspersed with more historical references. The illegal fighting in the twenties, a Germany in an conqueror’s armor returning several times reflecting the history of the Holy Roman Empire (more than 800 years of power and a Charles Quint), a Zeppelin on fire (which reminds us of the LZ 129 Hindenburg), a mediaeval religious congregation (probably a reference to the birth of Protestantism), a violent hostage-taking, a Stasi Office in full depravity and the Nazi regime in all its horror.
While the first reference to the former Eastern regime and its espionage Office appears for the first time at 2:20 minutes, we have to wait another minute for the first image linked to the Nazi regime. The latter imagery is much more extensive despite the overlap with the other references, and it shows several stages of the regime unlike the Stasi (which is reduced to the Office, the Space Race, and a riot under a giant statue of Marx).
The first step is the imprisonment of the Jews, then the concentration camps, including a hanging. This scene, incidentally, is the one used for the teaser that is controversial. We see two members of the band as Nazi officers and the four others as prisoners.
Each of them has a different badge: from left to right we see a pink triangle (homosexual) a yellow star (Jew) a yellow and Red Star (Jewish political prisoner) and a red triangle (political prisoner/resistance fighter). The image goes further by seeing the hanging of the prisoner with the yellow star, which means that they were the first targeted, and the more numerous to die. Later we see that the same prisoners aim at Nazi Germany and her officers before killing them.
All these historical references are filled with a strong symbolic, and enough realism to infer that they are not images chosen and taken lightly, but rather thought to bring a narration at several levels. The first one is rather simple: the hard history of Germany since its beginnings. The second, undoubtedly more discreet, is found in the shots of the modern revolts, where we find a little of all these characters, marking the weight of history on our time and the visibility of certain dark hours of the country in the present. This is a possible interpretation in the international political climate that we are currently experiencing.
With the piano playing for the end credits (Sonne by Rammstein) while we’re enjoying the last images and the aesthetic of the video, several questions arise: is the controversy is a way to diffuse a message about the dark reality of a country? Is the symbolism of some images too strong? Should we refrain from using them? What about self-censorship? On the contrary, is the use of these images important and should be done?
Just as many questions whose answers belong to the sensitivity of each individual and are to be added to the words of love for the country but of concern about nationalism. For us, we believe that history must be told so it cannot be forgotten and repeated. How about you?