Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Downfall (2004)

As Jon Haber once said "Every generation gets the Hitler it deserves". He was of course, speaking entirely in cinematic terms.
Which brings us to "The Downfall" a lavish German recreation of Adolf Hitler's last ten days in the fabled Fuhrer Bunker where suprisingly his entourage suddenly discovers they've been working for an anti-semite all these years.
Critics have been mulling over the consequences of a German Hitler after decades of Funny Hitlers, Dancing Hitlers, English Hitlers, Music Hall Hitlers, Singing Hitlers, American Hitlers, even a Jewish Hitler (Moe Howard of course). Alas though, this is nothing new, back in the 1950's in West Germany there was a brief vogue for World War Two pictures depicting high level Nazi politics, G.W. Pabst's last film "The Jackboot Mutiny" (U.S. Title) recounted von Stauffenberg's failed 1944 coup'd'etat against Hitler.
What is different is the obvious naturalism of Bruno Ganz' portrayal, he makes Hitler seem boring and bourgeois. This is itself a bit of a break with tradition as even the comics versions of Der Fuhrer kowtowed to his diabolical pre-eminence.
Then there is Traudl Junge (kewpie doll-ish Alexandra Maria Lara) Hitler's semi devoted secretary who forms the audience's perspective on the closing hystrionics of the Nazi Era. Alas its hard for American audiences to get behind Traudl good looks or not as her proximity to power and genocide gives her a Sergeant Schultz-like "I see Nothink" air. In other words is she dope or a collaborator.-who knows? Mostly she is there to reinforce the notion of there being german victims of Hitler's regime.
And at two and half hours the film gets wearisome as it is mostly set in Hitler's claustrophobic Fuhrer Bunker.
Still and all that the acting is tight but the story is too familiar to make this a worthwhile night at the movies. The film's most riveting sequence doesnt even involve Hitler at all. Rather it is Magda Goebbel's methodical slaughter of her own children, as she could not bear the notion of them living in a world without Nazism. Sadly the spirit of Magda Goebbels is with us today in all sorts of grim homicidal ways.
My advice, Wait for the DVD wherein no doubt even MORE footage will be included a'la "Das Boot".

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