This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Downfall/Der Untergang : Review

Sometimes it's better not to know too much...
I've always been fascinated by the Third Reich, most so of the story of the last month of its existence, with the Red Army threatening Berlin, the Western Allies smashing their way through the Ruhr, Germany almost cut in two, and Hitler hiding in his Fuehrerbunker under the Reich Chancellery. So when this film was made and opened to good reviews I waited for it eagerly, and I finally found a copy of the DVD in Delhi and bought it. Watched it last night.
Man, what a turkey.
First things first. If you want to make a historical movie, for dog's sake, keep it true to history. Or it will appeal only to those who prefer drama and invented "facts" to reality - and going by all appearances there are far too many of that.
What should I say about this film? It purports to depict the last twelve days in the Bunker, from Hitler's birthday on April 20th to the final exodus from the Bunker on May 2, two days after his suicide. I say "purports", because it does nothing of the sort.
Anyone who's read Shirer or Trevor Roper on Hitler will never be able to reconcile knowledge with depictions here. I won't really bother to give too much away - go see it for yourself if you must. But I'll say this much:
They play merry hell with timelines and logic, with the surrender of the city PRECEDING the final exodus and heavy fighting (how on earth?)
The film invents things, like Goebbels and his wife shooting each other (they were shot - at their request - by SS guards).
Total nonentities like Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary, and Eva Braun are turned into super-important characters while the single most important man in the Bunker in the last days (after Hitler himself), Martin Bormann, is about as important as an item of furniture. Braun, in reality a brainless Hitler devotee, becomes a discerning, sensitive woman who tries to save her brother in law from Hitler's wrath (in reality she bluntly refused to help). Magda Goebbels' alleged personal poisoning of her children (since they all died, there's no way of knowing just who poisoned the kids) occupies at least ten minutes of screen time - all to no value. Etc.
The film dramatises incidents out of all proportion, like the capture of the brother in law (SS Gruppenfuehrer Hermann Fegelein) who was discovered in his own house in civilian clothes and on Hitler's orders quietly shot in the Chancellery garden. In the film he's discovered naked in bed with a woman, boozed out of his mind. Even Hitler's funeral is fictionalised beyond recognition.
And so on. If I were to write an account of every fictionalisation, dramatisation, and plain fabrication in the film, I would end up writing pages, and this film isn't worth it. Not at all.
I'm awarding it two stars, and the film is worth zero. I'm awarding the two stars ONLY because of Bruno Ganz' performance as Hitler. He's worth more than the rest of the film's cast put together, dragging leg, trembling hand, and all.
Many years ago, I watched a TV film called THE LAST DAYS OF HITLER. That was so much better I'd have loved to see it again.
As for this one, they should have burned it along with Hitler's body.

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