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Downfall (2004)

September 25th, 2007 by Maxim · 2 Comments · 7,938 Views

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“Der Untergang” is a very realistic Oscar-nominated drama directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel about last days of Hitler told by his stenographer Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara). The details are pretty amazing: from Hitler’s appearance, manner of speech and behavior, to external details like destruction of archives, Hitler Jugend (brainwashed children 12-15 y.o.) still fighting or hoping to fight, chaos of retreat and refugees. Berlin is about to lose clean water, electricity, transportation, food. Army is demoralized entirely: some units executed old men for treason because they were no bearing arms. There’s no more police or law enforcement. Eva Braun writes last letter to her sister. In fact most of the movie is happening inside Hitler’s bunker. We only leave it to walk Blondi, Hitler’s dog, or see Berlin being taken over by the Red army.

Hitler is brilliantly played by Bruno Ganz. Hitler’s mood on his birthday was pretty grim: he was frustrated with impotence and disloyalty of his generals, and he said, “it’s only natural that the inferior survive. Our best people have already fallen.” Interesting to see how low-rank officers and stenographers in his bunker stand in the corridor listening to him raging about his officers behind closed door in his bunker. Most of his frustration comes from his detachment from reality. Even when the war is lost the lunatic continues to fight it in his fantasies and complain that even closest people did not understand him. And Junge, the stenographer, is completely enchanted by Hitler’s personality as seems to have little idea about the crimes of Nazis. Then he realizes that all is lost – there will be no counter attack that could have saved Berlin. He begins to contemplate suicide, first in a form of a joke, then for real.

The scene where everyone was dancing swing under bombing – seems like everyone was on the edge of panic attack and realizing that it may be the last time they dance ever.

Another pretty strong scene when one of the ladies comes to the children’s room to poison her children, and young ones drink without much complaining because they are told it’s a medicine, but the elder girl understood what the drink is and doesn’t want to drink it.

Göbels: “The German people chose their fate by giving us the mandate. Now their little throats are being cut. I feel no sympathy.”

The movie basically shows that Hitler was a human made from the same clay as everybody else, and as a fanatic who wanted to achieve his goals even at the cost of his life. But not only I felt no sympathy, even though I tried to play “devils advocate” and see it from the point of view of the director, but I was actually repulsed almost the same way I felt when I saw a car drive over a rat that was dying from rat poison. That’s no justification for what Nazis did. Yes, German population suffered from war. Why shouldn’t they? Is it conceivable that a brutal regime like that could have been sustained for so long in a democratic country without support of the vast majority of population? So they got what they deserved. And as far as that lunatic goes, if anyone can call him genius then he’d only be genius in the ways he exploited German wounded pride of shameful 1918 defeat in World War 1, their xenophobia, racism and hatred to satisfy his own mania of grandeur and unlimited power, and deliver what big business wanted from him: slaves, new markets and new sources of natural resources. Nazis had no problems wiping out one out of four people in Poland, Belorussia and Ukraine, leveled off many cities there, burned people alive… it wasn’t hard – Nazis weren’t considering them people in the first place. Anyway, everyone knows about their crimes. The point is – the attempt of director to humanize Hitler, his inner circle or other Nazis has failed for me. No sympathy.

The diery actually confirmed how Adolf Hitler and Eva and their dog died: dog was poisoned in Hitler’s pressence. Hitler ordered his and Eva’s bodies burned so nobody can find them. Interesting scene there when Eva confides to Frau Junge about Hitler’s mood and what a caring and captivating person Hitler was.

Acting and directing were excellent. Very human and very believable.

Film begins and ends with excerpts from documentary about Frau Junge, where she said that she was completely ignorant about extermination of 6 million Jews and other crimes of Nazis all over Europe.

Some explosions were CGI. The Russians were authentic.

Another great movie in the same style directed by a German: “Stalingrad” – about the turning point of World War II and the Great Patriotic War. “Das Boot” is also worth mentioning – about dedication of sailors on a German u-boat who were hunting caravans and other “targets of opportunity” but got hit too and had to go back to base through Gibraltar controlled by British at that time.

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Tags: Biographical · DVD · Drama · Foreign · Germany · Movies

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