Watched "Cabaret" again for the first time in decades the other night, and I was struck by how modern it is. The movie came out in 1972, based on the Broadway musical of 1966, based on the 1951 play "I Am a Camera," based on the 1939 novel "Goodbye to Berlin," based on 1931 Wiemar Germany. The main thrust of the story is the decadent escapism of Berlin night life, offering the people some release from the anxieties of daily life, punctuated by the militant rise of the Nazi party (National Socialists). Thrown in for good measure are homosexuality, abortion, alternative sex partnering, racism and political indifference within private life. The only issue of Wiemar Germany that is glossed over is the economic disaster of hyper-inflation and a worthless mark.
So I was watching it, and I'd see a character and say (quietly to myself) "Wow, she looks just like (insert current celebrity)", or I'd hear a line and say "That sounds just like (insert current political agenda)" or a scene would develop and I'd say "Wow, that's just like (insert current international ideology)". It was truly creepy. One musical number has the androgynous master of ceremonies singing about wanting to marry someone in a gorilla suit, and at the end tells the audience, "She doesn't look Jewish at all." There is even now a prominent group worldwide that describes Jews as pigs and apes.
The warning is that – although I doubt the movie makers intended this – the culture of the cabaret life was inviting the rise of fascism. It is a well-documented cycle that liberal (and I mean that in the classic sense) cultures devolve into hedonism which then gives rise within the population a desire for stricter authority. This is what "Cabaret" presents, and it is unmistakeably the condition of the western world today, in Europe even more so than the U.S. On top of that, the undermining of currency through government borrowing and printing of money (the head of the Federal Reserve a few months ago printed up hundreds of billions of dollars in hopes of creating inflation) will eventually further undermine the stability of our society. What large movement looms on the horizon today, ready to fill a vacuum and force discipline that current authorities are unwilling to enforce? You figure it out. In my mind, we need to get ahold of ourselves before it's too late, or our children might be living in a much-more unforgiving world.
I recommend "Cabaret" as a study of the western condition, and besides, the musical numbers are great. And I'm not generally a fan of musicals.