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Art House & International movie directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

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Sympathy for the devil

  • Jan 22, 2007
  • by
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 years in his employ, she's seen him go through all sorts of moods, but hasn't until now seen him grimly suicidal.

Hitler isn't the only one. Left and right his generals and commanders start killing themselves, at least those who don't try desprately to leave Berlin. Himmler even muses about making a peace with the Allies and wonders if, upon meeting Eisenhower, he should shake his hand or give the Nazi salute.

The movie is also about the innocent. You see a young boy, not even old enough to shave, with his friends. All of them are wearing Hitler Youth uniforms. We learn in time that the boy is being given a medal for destroying two Russian tanks. His father is horrified. The boy, convinced he's immortal, is proud of himself, and ashamed of his father.

The saddest of the innocent, though, are the Goebbels children. In the bunker they sing and play, and Frauline Junge does her best to look after them. Then their mother says she doesn't want them growing up in a world without National Socialism. Not long after, all the children are dead; killed by their mother, who is then shot by her husband, who then kills himself.

The last days of the Nazi regeime leaves those more mythologically inclined to have flashbacks to Ragnarok, the Norse myth about the end of the world. Hitler, obsessed with appocalyptic imagry, seemed determined to bring about his own Ragnarok. You see him having conversations about how the German people failed him, and if they die, well, they'll get what they deserve. Towards the end he issus commands that even his loyal followers, like Albert Speer, are unable to follow.

In the final scenes we see Tradl Junge and our young Hitler Youth member escape into the countryside on a bicycle. Yes, their lives as they know them are over, and there's sadness, but also a feeling of hope, and one remembers these are the people who in later years built Germany into the dynamo it's become.

The movie is indeed sad, but also at the end uplifting and well worth seeing. Yes, it's in German with subtitles, but, well, deal. It's worth it. Trust me.

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More Downfall reviews
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 . August 05, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
About the reviewer
C R Swanson ()
Ranked #60
   I'm an aspiring writer and reviewer. I run a blog, I'm working on a novel and spend my free time reading and playing video games. I also spend waaaaay too much time and money on movies. … 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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