The Downfall

Autumn has been around for a couple of beautiful days now, and with it, obviously the cinema season.

Yesterday, I went to see The Downfall, a critically acclaimed movie about the final days of the Third Reich.

The film is hard to assess & qualify. It is not a work of art - the historic background forbids that - yet, the execution is brilliant. It is not a documentary - it only shows one side - yet, it sketches very precisely what happened in the Führerbunker in this final dozen days. And lastly, it is not a movie in the sense that it does not seem to aim at getting the audience strongly involved emotionally; but you are when you witness the fatal desperation of so many faithful followers.

It stands firm on a slippery slope, showing the banality of a small and shrinking, isolated group of people who once controlled the European mainland and now find themselves caught in a state of increasing dissolution of their madness when reality - or the penultimate loss thereof - sets in under the pounding fire of russian artillery. And yet we know the monstrosities their idealism created in the outside world.

Interestingly, the female characters play the stronger, more easily relatable to part, although they are just accessories to the great game and no less caught in the madness of their belief in the Nazi religion than their male leaders, who are limited to shouting and swaggering heroicly, with the exception maybe of Speer, two doctors and a young HJ come to reason. The narrator, incidentally, is Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge, who not long ago came forward with a very impressive interview about her time in the Bunker, only to die the day after the interview's German première. Excerpts from the interview form the brackets of the movie, and I very much recommend to see it also.

And finally, Hitler. Ganz shows us a believable character with an unwaivering, never doubting conviction of the righteousness of its perverted ideas. Yet what he doesn't show is the magnetism, the charisma the man must have had to yield such attraction over so many people for so long. In that respect, my expectations have not been fulfilled. With all other respects, they have been challenged. Go see it!

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