DIRECTOR: Oliver Hirschbiegel
The true story of the last days of NAZI Germany, focusing on Hitler and his cohorts as they sought refuge on his Berlin Bunker and is chronicled here with such honesty.
Told in a straight forward manner, we are given a portrait of not only Adolf Hitler himself, played perfectly by Bruno Ganz, who manages to humanize him without ever apologising for his heinous acts, but also those close to him. Shown through the young eyes of his final secretary, Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara), we are given a picture of what The Third Reich was to those who believed in it as well as what it had become for those who would suffer at it bloody hands.
Directed by Hirschbiegel to put us, the audience in the anterooms with these monsters, we are placed into a complex environment, edgy, atmospheric and most of all, real, as we witness noble acts of patriotism, conscience and pure, despicable horror, none less so that Magda Geobells, with the full consent of her husband, Joseph, first drugging, then murdering their six children as they slept, rather than “let them live in a wold without national socialism.”
The only redeeming factors were their eventual suicides and in terms of the film, their first rate performances throughout this harrowing scene. Corinna Harfouch, who portrays Magda manages to portray this evil woman yet convey the emotion which was subdued deep beneath the surface. No small feat to allow such a fleeting glimpse of humanity during such and inhuman act.
But the same must be said Bruno Ganz, who manages to portray Hitler with such humanity; whilst showing us the true nature of his monstrosities, highlighting that the REAL monsters live among us and can seduce us at any time, any where, especially when we are vulnerable.
During one of the film’s early scenes, Hitler and Albert Speer (Heino Ferch), his Armaments Minister, discussing his vision for The Third Reich as he looks over a model of the new Germany which would be built after he won the war, a Germany without department stores, instead focusing on art, literature and culture.
Surely a noble goal, but as we all know, this cultural hub would have been built at an unacceptable cost, mainly with the blood of those who Hitler and his cohorts deemed to be inferior.
This is one of many clever methods used to convey a fair portrait of Hitler and The Third Reich. To demonstrate how bad they were, you first have to show impartiality, pointing out the good in what they do, play devil’s advocate as it were. Because whether we like it or not, evil motives are often built upon decent goals.
But as this film demonstrates, as Hitler shows his destine for anyone, even his own people, who will not give their lives for HIS vision of Germany, his Third Reich was being eaten away by a cancer of his own making, a Germany rotting from the very top.
Downfall is without a doubt one of the best World War 2 films which I have ever seen, delivering a compelling and immersive look behind the scenes of one of the most important defeats in modern history.
But being British and having to follow this with subtitles, which was great as watching this in its native German only adds to the experience, it can be a bit difficult to keep up with every plot machination, as we spend two and half hours reading about troop deployments, tactics and the philosophy of the Third Reich as we are presented with such atmospheric work, but if you can keep up with but the text and visuals, this is one hell of an education for those who do not know and an immersive masterpiece for those who follow WW2 history.