Sunday, July 1, 2012

980. Der Untergang/Downfall (2004)

Running Time: 156 minutes
Directed By: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Written By: Bernd Eichinger
Main Cast: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ulrich Matthes, Juliane Kohler, Corinna Harfouch
Click here to view the trailer


This one has been staring me in the face for almost the entire duration of this 100 and while I expected to like it, as I've liked other films about the Nazi's, the holocaust and the rise of Hitler, I still ended up putting it off until almost the end of my current run. However, it turns out that, perhaps subconsciously, I was putting it off for a reason, as I didn't like it as much as I expected to.

The film uses the central character of Traudl Junge (Maria Lara), Hitler's stenographer, to tell the story of Hitler's final twelve days and the fall of Berlin, during World War II. The film takes place primarily in a bunker, the exact bunker where Hitler (Ganz) would go on to kill himself. I don't feel I really need to recount the plot as detailed as I would a movie based on fictional material, as the subject matter should be widely known by this point, nearly sixty years later. The film fits in most of the familiar faces of the Nazi regime, including Joseph Goebbels (Matthes) and Eva Braun (Kohler). The film is almost 100% gloom and doom, as Hitler and his Nazi regime are witnessing and living the end of their reign of terror and succumbing to Russian forces, as Berlin crumbles around them. Apparently, when the film premiered in America, in 2004, there was high controversy, as most people took offense to the way the Nazi's, particularly Hitler, were portrayed as being very human.


In fact, it's a thought that occurred to me at about the halfway mark, as I started to realize that I was actually feeling sorry for Hitler! I mean, I have to tell you folks, if you like musicals and upbeat movies, then "Downfall" is certainly not for you. If watching two and a half hours of Hitler freaking out, Nazi's rallying to escape Berlin and a nearly one hour finale of the Nazi regime blowing their brains out and biting into poison capsules, then buckle up because this film's for you! Perhaps the most heart wrenching scene in the entire film - scratch that, it IS the most heart wrenching scene in the entire film - is when Magda Goebbels, wife of Joseph, forces her six children to drink a sleep aid and then poisons them as they lie dreaming sweetly. However, it brought up a more important question: Why can't I cry at movies anymore? I swear, the last time I cried over a movie was at "The Shawshank Redemption", during the finale, when Red is riding the bus to see Andy. If ever there was a time to bawl, it's watching Magda Goebbels poison her six kids, watching the souls leave their tiny bodies.

Oh well, I'm getting off topic. "Downfall" will certainly make you a little compassionate toward the Nazi regime, so I'd follow it up with a viewing of "Schindler's List" or something that doesn't treat the Nazi's as kindly as Oliver Hirschbiegel did. It wasn't a terrible film, but it's incredibly gloomy. The best part of the film is, by far, Bruno Ganz' portrayal of Adolf Hitler, hitting every mannerism (judging by the very few real life clips of Hitler I've actually seen) to a tee. The movie could've been shorter and could've included a brief summation of events at the beginning of the film, showing a little bit of the horrors that the Nazi's committed, so as to give us a little bit of a "you reap what you sow" attitude when it came time for the Nazi's to swallow a taste of their own medicine. On the other hand, the camerawork was excellent and the film certainly gives you more than a handful of images that you'll surely never forget. Other than that, it was a mediocre picture, that's that.

RATING: 6.5/10  Man, I really had some high hopes for this one, but sometimes things don't work out the way you predict....just ask Hitler.


July 1, 2012  10:04pm

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