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STEPHEN'S MOVIE GUIDE

Downfall  

Review: written 2007

Stunning depiction of last few days of WW II inside Hitler's bunker

This is a near flawless movie, well deserving of a wide audience. The fact that it is a German movie which required watching subtitles, may put some people off - but the reality is that the German actors give this much more resonance than any Hollywood version could have.

Much has been said about the fantastic performance of Bruno Ganz as Hitler. This is his movie, no doubt. It should also be mentioned, however, that all of the performances are so spot on that we are removed from a theatrical overview of events, and truly become part of life in the bunker. So many movies of this period show either the two dimensional Nazi bad guys and Hitler as a raving lunatic and nothing else, or a dispassionate overview of the tactics of the battle for Berlin. This movie achieves something rare - a real personal insight into the characters and how they informed the battle tactics and actions of individuals.

Our view into this world is through the young and naive private secretary Traudl Junge, who wrote one of the books on which the movie is based. Historical accuracy is therefore high on the filmmakers priorities, but what we see is more, it’s an insight into the humanity of Hitler - in one moment warm and compassionate, the next brutal and vulgar. We can understand through Ganz' portrayal the charisma the man must have had to attract such loyal devotion.

Do not be fooled into thinking that a movie about life in the bunker will be small scale low budget sets.. the movie ventures outside and we get glimpses of some terrible battle scenes. Those with DTS capability for surround sound will be richly rewarded. The scenes of a war ravaged Berlin are incredibly real - in fact, shot in Saint Petersburg.

Towards the end the scenes become more and more disturbing as the veneer of normality is stripped away as the war looms closer. Scenes of suicides and murders are truly disturbing - not least the scene where Magda Goebbels, having sworn her children should not survive in a world without National Socialism, calmly murders them in their sleep, one at a time, before calmly sitting down to a game of cards.

At once compelling in the drama of a city at war, and engrossing for its insight into characters normally cinema is too scared to show as being part of humanity, this is perhaps one of the most insightful movies into the horror of National Socialism in WW II and the man who created it. The movie is bookended by the real Traudl Junge speaking in a 2001 documentary, adding an entirely appropriate coda to the movie showing its relevance to all of us.

Thoroughly and unreservedly recommended.





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