Sunday, April 24, 2005

Movie review: Der Untergang/The Downfall

I was bound to see it. The media lauded it as the truest account of Hitler’s last days, thoughtful and not cheesy, unlike so many ‘history’ flicks (ditto: Pearl Harbor, Troy).

Finally I saw it yesterday and although I would not consider it a waste of time, it didn’t rise up to my high expectations.

It’s hard to say what exactly the problem with the Downfall. It’s got some good war scenes, Hitler’s portrayal as a mad lunatic willing to spare his beloved German people but to admit his utter failure, German generals, subservient in their blind obedience to him – all of that was probably true, historically speaking and was craftily done.

Yet, there were too many plot lines to follow and some, such as the little boy line, seemed to be there on purpose to provide an implausible happy ending. In the movie, Traudl Junge, a Hitler secretary, the one who took down his testament, walks with the boy through the crowd of Soviet soldiers and amazingly manages to escape. In reality, however, After the war, Junge was taken into custody by the Red Army, then the Americans. After being interrogated and spending about six months in prison, she was released (according to this Guardian article).

Apart from this fake happy ending, there are other little cheap tricks: officers at the bunker start smoking once it’s said that Hitler committed suicide (Junge recalled that People began to smoke in the F?hrer's presence.), when in the Goebbels poisoning scene the camera focuses on the children’s feet too conspicuously etc, Soviet soldiers are dancing drunk just a few meters from Hitler’s bunker full of SS guys who don’t want to surrender (we hear the talks about it in the movie, but such a possibility must’ve been obvious to Soviet forces as well), Keitel speaks Russian etc.

May be, it’s nit picking and readily concede that it didn’t totally ruin my impression about the movie but overall it left a strange aftertaste of something not very genuine.

P.S. Another observation, perhaps unrelated to the movie itself, is about the post war fate of the characters shown in the movie. Those who didn’t commit suicide or weren’t sentenced to death at Nuremberg actually lived very long, probably longer than most of their Soviet captors. And those who in the movie are shown to be more decent persons actually died sooner. Amazingly, one guy (I don’t remember who) is still alive!!!

P.S. I've just read some IMBD users reviews and there seems to be nothing but high praise for the movie. Don't get me wrong, the movie is a must-see but perhaps, I'll change my mind when I see it again but for now I got the impression that it fell flat sometimes.


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