Thursday, November 13, 2008
I have been trying to put some kind of order into my collection of DVDs and videos today and thankfully managed to find Downfall. If you have any degree of interest in WWII then you really should watch this film.
It is German, with English subtitles, and tells the story of the last days of Hitler from Traudl Junge's perspective. Frau Junge was one of Hitler's personal secretaries and a fascinating character who seemed to be in denial about the true horrors of Naziism until her death in 2002. This view of her was reinforced when I saw an interview with her filmed in the year of her death, Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary, when I was doing a history course in London in about 2003.
The power of Downfall is that German actors played the parts of the Nazi hierarchy for the first time since the war. In some ways the DVD extras, which include interviews with the main characters, are just as fascinating as the film. The actors discuss their feelings as they worked on the film, and the response of the German public to them as the project developed.
The most frightening part of the film, and the whole history of that time, is the terrifying level of loyalty that Hitler commanded. Even as the Soviets were on the outskirts of Berlin Hitler was convinced that the Reich would survive and victory would still be theirs. His henchmen continued to believe him, although many army generals were less deluded.
His paranoia, and that of his followers, reached such a pitch that even to the day Hitler committed suicide, those who dared to even question eventual victory were being put before firing squads. The film frightenigly depicts the fear that pervaded Berlin as those, even at that stage, who were seen by Hitler and his henchmen as disloyal were dragged from their beds to be shot.
The fact that the film is German makes it all the more powerful and the special effects are some of the most graphic and realistic I have ever seen. I think Mrs B and I will be having a special viewing on Saturday night with a decent bottle of red. I can thoroughly recommend it.