Netflix52: Downfall

Downfall (R)downfall

Genre : Foreign, Drama, History, War
Tagline : Hitler and the End of the Third Reich
Starring : Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ulrich Matthes
Running Time : 156 Minutes
Director : Oliver Hirschbiegel
Producers : Christine RotheBernd Eichinger

Traudl Junge, the final secretary for Adolf Hitler, tells of the Nazi dictator’s final ten days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII.

I have watched a large number of films about World War II and the Holocaust.  I would like to say that I have a pretty thorough knowledge of both for someone whose life work is not on one of those subjects.  In my “professional” opinion, this is the best movie about Hitler I have ever seen.  There were many critics who were angry with how Hitler (Bruno Ganz) was humanized and how the acting evoked feelings of sympathy for him from the viewers.  The raw emotion Bruno is able to evoke is mind-blowing.  He did his homework and portrays Hitler in a way I have never seen before, vulnerable to his feelings and his humanity.

When Traudl Humps (Alexandra Maria Lara), now Traudl Junge, first met Hitler she was very impressed with how wonderful he was.  She said, “I admit, I was fascinated by Adolf Hitler. He was a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend. I deliberately ignored all the warning voices inside me and enjoyed the time by his side almost until the bitter end. It wasn’t what he said, but the way he said things and how he did things.”  When she was chosen to be one of his personal secretaries she felt like she had landed the perfect job working for the perfect boss.  It wasn’t until a few months after the end of the war, she claims, when she finally heard stories of the German activities during the war.

This movie chronicles the last days of Hitler’s life as the Russian’s zeroed in on his bunker in Berlin.  The events that took place during his last days are well documented by those close to him who escaped the bunker unharmed.  Many others were not so lucky and were either executed or committed suicide before the final surrender to the Russians.  You learn the fates of all the major players in the Nazi party.  You see Hitler try to avoid the downfall of the Third Reich by desperately clinging to false hopes that someone will come in and save Berlin.  You watch many of Hitler’s most trusted advisors abandon ship and attempt to save themselves.  You see the most loyal of Hitlers followers take theirs lives and the lives of their families in honor of him.  You see the betrayal Hitler feels as he realizes that all these people who pledged devotion and allegiance to him flee.  You watch as some of the men try to save the German people from undo harm as Hitler serves them up for the slaughter.  You see the true delusion and the pure evil of Adolf Hitler.

Watching the end of one to he most evil and hated regimes is mesmerizing.  I can only imagine that this is a close depiction of what those last days were actually like.  The acting is astounding and the cinematography is perfect for the scenery.  The portrayal of each member of his followers is spot on to what I know and have seen of them.  Bruno Ganz is outstanding!  This is an honest and human portrayal of Hitler.  Hitler was an evil human being, probably the most evil person that ever lived.  Rightly so, almost all portrayals of Hitler in film, television, and documentaries paint him as a monster.  He is dehumanized in order for us to separate ourselves from the atrocities he committed.  It is the only way we can feel safe from someone like him ever coming to power again.  He was also a human just like you or me and this is a rare glimpse into that side of him.

I completely understand how many think this film is meant to evoke sympathy for him, and you do often feel that way, but I think it does the exact opposite.  This film reminds me that there is evil and good in all of us.  Compassion, reason, and the ability to love are things that Hitler was always missing.  This film does an excellent job of spotlighting just how cold and callus he was while still being charming and nice to his admirers.  In showing his humanity, I think it reminds us that we can not take for granted the seemingly harmless steps that lead to utter destruction.  I think Roger Ebert said it best when he said of the movie “As we regard this broken and pathetic Hitler, we realize that he did not alone create the Third Reich, but was the focus for a spontaneous uprising by many of the German people, fueled by racism, xenophobia, grandiosity and fear. He was skilled in the ways he exploited that feeling, and surrounded himself by gifted strategists and propagandists, but he was not a great man, simply one armed by fate to unleash unimaginable evil. It is useful to reflect that racism, xenophobia, grandiosity and fear are still with us, and the defeat of one of their manifestations does not inoculate us against others.”

Christianity tells us that we are all children of God, Hitler included, and if that is true then I am ever more alert and aware of my actions towards others because of this film.  We have a responsibility to ourselves and the rest of humanity to not be lazy and allow evil to win.  Traudl perfectly sums up our responsibility to future generations when she describes what she learned.  She says “Of course the horrors, of which I heard in connection of the Nuremberg trials, the fate of the 6 million Jews, their killing and those of many others who represented different races and creeds, shocked me greatly, but at that time I could not see any connection between these things and my own past. I was only happy that I had not personally been guilty of these things and that I had not been aware of the scale of these things. However, one day I walked past a plaque that on the Franz-Joseph Straße (in Munich), on the wall in memory of Sophie Scholl. I could see that she had been born the same year as I, and that she had been executed the same year when I entered into Hitler’s service. And at that moment I really realised, that it was no excuse that I had been so young. I could perhaps have tried to find out about things.”

Distributed : Constantin Film
Released : Germany – September 8, 2004   USA – February 18, 2005
Budget : € 13.5 Million
Box Office : $ 92, 180, 910
Tomatometer : 91% Critic, 92% Audience

Favorite Scene : I can not say that I have a favorite scene but the most moving to me is also the most painful scene.  It is the scene where Magda Goebbels kills her children.  I can’t imagine anyone doing that.  Those poor babies.
Favorite Quote : ” And at that moment I actually realised that a young age isn’t an excuse.”
Awards : Amanda Award for Best Foreign Language Film-Amanda Awards, Bambi Award for Best National Film-Bambi Awards, Audience Award for Best Director & Bavarian Film Award for Best Actor and for Best Production-Bavarian Film Awards, Bodil Award for Best Non-American Film-Bodil Awards, Best Foreign Independent Film-British Independent Film Awards, Crystal Simorgh Award in the International Competition for Best Technical or Artistic Achievement-Fajr Film Festival, Golden Camera Award for Best German Actress-Golden Camera/Germany, Best Foreign Film-Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards, ALFS Award For Actor of the Year and for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year-London Critics Circle Film Awards, Best Screenplay-Mar del Plata Film Festival, NBR Award for Top Foreign Films-National Board of Review, OFCS Award for Best Foreign Language Film-Online Film Critics Society Awards, Robert Award for Best Non-American Film-Robert Festival, Special Jury Award for Best Performance by an Actor in an International Film-Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Fun Facts :

  1. Was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2005.  It lost to The Sea Inside.
  2. Bruno Ganz practiced Adolf Hitler’s distinct Austrian accent with the help of a young actor from Hitler’s area in Upper Austria.
  3. Bruno Ganz studied Parkinson’s disease patients in a Swiss hospital to prepare for his role as Hitler.
  4. Also helping Bruno Ganz in preparing for the role was the unique, only known recording of Adolf Hitler. Finnish intelligence agents secretly made the recording in a train wagon; as Hitler did not allow recordings nor photographs to be taken in private. Some 11 minutes of the recording feature relaxed, normal-tone talk in which Hitler generally describe his views about the war. One of two copies of the tape was discovered in 1992 and has since been studied by scientists and historians.
  5. After the film’s release, Bruno Ganz stated that, at first, he didn’t want the role of Adolf Hitler. After viewing the film The Last Ten Days and Albin Skoda‘s portrayal of Hitler, however, Ganz realized the role could be played with some depth, and accepted the part.
  6. The featured interview samples of real Traudl Junge are taken from the documentary “Blind Spot” recorded in April and July 2001. Due to serious health problems Junge wasn’t able to attend the film’s premiere on the 9th of February 2002. The premiere had been a great success and the camera man went to hospital to inform Junge whereupon she is said to have answered “Now that I’ve let go of my story, I can let go of my life.” Just hours later she died aged 82 after a long fight against cancer.
  7. Of the thirty-seven named real life people featured as characters in the film, Rochus Misch, Hitler’s courier, bodyguard, and telephone operator, was the only one who was still alive when the film was released. As of 2010, he is the last survivor of the Führerbunker. and is still alive today at 95 years old.
  8.  Most of the outdoor city scenes for the movie were filmed in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This was for two reasons, one the architecture of the city has many Germanic aspects. Second, there are plenty of streets with little or no modern advertisements and other commercial aspects.
  9. Many of Adolf Hitler’s lines are historically accurate, based on accounts from Albert Speer and Traudl Junge, most of them however are from earlier dates.
  10. Corinna Harfouch stated that she nearly broke down when filming the scene in which Magda Goebbels gives her children their “medicine” to put them to sleep before poisoning them. Bruno Ganz felt similarly when he held the girl playing one of the Goebbels’ children in his lap as they sang, because he knew that these children were soon to be murdered by their parents.
  11. During the war, the majority of the cyanide capsules produced were made in the concentration camps, which made sabotage a real problem. This is one of the reasons why many Germans who committed suicide by cyanide also shot themselves to make sure they would die. This is also the reason why Adolf Hitler’s beloved dog Blondi was poisoned; he wanted to make sure his batch of cyanide was not fake.
  12. Clips from this movie are used in numerous parodies that appear on YouTube in which a scene (usually the one of Adolf Hitler yelling at his subordinates) is re-subtitled to imbue it with unintended comedic meaning.
  13. Justus Von Dohnanyi‘, who portrays General Wilhelm Burgdorf, is the grandson of Hans Von Dohnanyi, one of the members of the anti-Hitler conspiracy, who was hanged in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in September 1944. Through his grandfather’s marriage, he is also the grand-nephew of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, another anti-Hitler conspirator who was hanged in the Flossenburg concentration camp.
  14. According to Traudl Junge’s memoirs and several other sources, Magda Goebbels was not present when Adolf Hitler said his goodbyes before committing suicide. She had locked herself in her room at the time.
  15. German TV version features 22 minutes of additional footage.
  16. After the final credits there is a statement by the real Traudl Jung about her feelings of guilt and responsibility. In the British Cinema release, this is moved to before the credits.
  17. On 1 May, Junge left the Führerbunker with a group led by Waffen-SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke. Also in the group were Hitler’s personal pilot Hans Baur, chief of Hitler’s Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD) bodyguard Hans Rattenhuber, secretary Gerda Christian, secretary Else Krüger, Hitler’s dietician Constanze Manziarly and Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck.

One response to “Netflix52: Downfall

  1. Pingback: My High Expectations = Disappointment | The Daily Cake

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