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Art House & International movie directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

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An Unstintingly Realistic Examination of the Final Days of Adolf Hitler

  • Aug 5, 2005
DER UNTERGANG (DOWNFALL) is not only a brilliant film in its close-up dissection of the mind of a lunatic, it is an important historical document that at last gives us as realistic view as possible of the last days of the Third Reich. Written by Bernd Eichinger who based his screenplay on memoirs by Traudl Junge and Melissa Müller ('Bis zur letzten Stunde') and Joachim Fest, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, and acted by an all-German cast, this is about as frightening as a story can get - yet a seemingly authentic one.

Bruno Ganz gives a searingly vivid performance as Hitler, and while some are enraged that the film shows too much of the human side of Hitler (as though this could make him seem less horrid!), Ganz finds that fine line of presenting Hitler as a delusional underachiever who will go to any lengths to fake a 'caring man' to some while always being short-fused into irrational rages to others. The film takes place in the final 12 days of Hitler's life while he is living in an underground bunker surrounded by many of his fellow ghouls as Russian troops rapidly advance to stamp out his existence. There is condescension as well as blind devotion among the ranks. Hitler marries Eva Braun, informs his confidants that he will never surrender (nor should they) and then proceeds on his plans to commit suicide with Eva, having extracted a promise that their bodies be burned beyond recognition to prevent desecration by the Allies and encroaching Russians. How this grand final plan is carried out is terrifying, especially watching Frau Goebbels (Corinna Harfouch) sedate then poison all her children, and quietly placing herself in front of the firing squad.

The spectrum of the horror of Hitler's atrocities is not diminished by this so-called 'humanizing' film: quite the contrary - Bruno Ganz inhabits the role with a verismo that makes Hitler even more terrifying in being a credible mind gone mad. The entire cast of this claustrophobic underground bunker team is superb and the direction makes the 156 minutes speed by. The minimalist musical score by Stephan Zacharias lends just the right tone of eeriness and the cinematography by Rainer Klausmann (shot in St Petersberg and Munich) is stunning. The film opens and closes with the elderly Traudl Junge (the 'secretary' author of the book on which the film is based) commenting on the terrible tragedy in which she took part. The effect is devastating. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, August 05

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Quick Tip by . April 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Along with Das Boot, this is among my favorite war films to come from Germany. This movie shows the last days of the Third Reich, and is done so with such great execution. Based on the memoirs of Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary, this movie is executed with such powerful attention to detail. The mental degradation of the Nazis in the bunker feels highly realistic in this film, and Bruno Ganz perfectly portrays Hitler.      The funny thing about this movie is that I became …
review by . January 22, 2007
Who would have thought you could shed tears for the Nazis?    "Downfall" is a sad, grim movie about the last days of Nazi Germany. It takes place in corridors and sealed rooms, deep underground, with occasional forays into the shattered surface world of Berlin mere hours before the Russians overran it.    The main character in the story is Tradl Junge, and was based in part on her memoirs, who as a young woman was hired as Hitler's secratary. Now after three …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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The riveting subject ofDownfallis nothing less than the disintegration of Adolf Hitler in mind, body, and soul. A 2005 Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film, this German historical drama stars Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire) as Hitler, whose psychic meltdown is depicted in sobering detail, suggesting a fallen, pathetic dictator on the verge on insanity, resorting to suicide (along with Eva Braun and Joseph and Magda Goebbels) as his Nazi empire burns amidst chaos in mid-1945. While staging most of the film in the claustrophobic bunker where Hitler spent his final days, director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Das Experiment) dares to show the gentler human side ofder Fuehrer, as opposed to the pure embodiment of evil so familiar from many other Nazi-era dramas. This balanced portrayal does not inspire sympathy, however: We simply see the complexity of Hitler's character in the greater context of his inevitable downfall, and a more realistic (and therefore more horrifying) biographical portrait of madness on both epic and intimate scales. By ending with a chilling clip from the 2002 documentaryBlind Spot: Hitler's Secretary, this unforgettable film gains another dimension of sobering authenticity.--Jeff Shannon
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DVD Release Date: August 2, 2005
Runtime: 156 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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