2000s Der Untergang, aka Downfall (2004)

Published on October 22nd, 2007 | by Chris

1

Der Untergang, aka Downfall (2004)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On October 22, 2007
Last modified:October 8, 2012

Summary:

Downfall is a bleak, depressing, claustrophobic look at final days of Adolf Hitler and those who surrounded him during his final few days in Berlin.

Der Untergang, aka Downfall (2004)Man, I really wish I hadn't stumbled upon this 30 minutes late on cable.  Because *all* of what I saw was some of the best, yet emotionally difficult to watch, film I've seen in a while.

Downfall (or "Der Untergang", which translates to "the conditions".. ? eh? at least according to google it does) is a bleak, depressing, claustrophobic look at final days of Adolf Hitler and those who surrounded him during his final few days in Berlin.

The film is also entirely in German (being a German produced film, I guess you have to expect that...) which lends a lot to the "authenticity" of the picture.  My German is nicht sehr gut so I was having to read most everything, which proved to be only slightly distracting.

What struck me most about Downfall, was the *almost* sympathetic portrayal of Adolf Hitler, masterfully done by Bruno Ganz.  I say "almost" because even though Hitler is shown to have a somewhat more human side here, the madness still overshadows any goodness the man might've had.  Ganz' depiction of the all-at-once paranoid, delusional, meglomanical, just-plain-nuckin-futz Hitler is just brilliant.  From the anger and crazy rants we've come to know and, well, to the hunched over, slow walking, palsied-hand "poor old man" that nobody really thinks of.

Of course it really doesn't matter in the end.  I don't think I'm spoiling too much to say that Hitler's (and Braun's) suicide isn't really the end of the story here.  What's even more disturbing is the portrayal of Hitler's cult-like followers, such as the Goebbels' family.  Probably the most disturbing scene of the picture (well the parts that I saw) was Mrs. Goebbels poisoning her children, only to calmly sit down to a game of solitaire.

It's also obvious just how insane the man was, as is evident by the delusional orders he continues to give, despite the encroaching Russian forces.  This madness is also clear in the faces of his Generals as he rants on, with some of them obviously fed up with the insanity.  The rest clinging to some vain hope of der Fuhrer pulling them out of their situation.

Of course that's not the only story.  Also of importance is the somewhat connected side story of Hitler's secretary, Traudi Junge (played by Alexandra Maria Lara.)  She eventually escapes the death and madness, and eventually goes on to write one of the books this film is based upon.

There was also the brief and disconnected story of a young boy caught up in the fighting, but I must've missed something important there, as it really didn't make much sense in the bigger picture.  Other than to say he leaves the city with Junge in the end.  I wasn't sure if he was supposed to be a Hitler Youth, one of the ultra-young conscripts of the German Army or just a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If I can catch the first 30 minutes of this I will definitely do it.  Based on the remaining 126 minutes (yeah its kind of long) I rate Downfall right up there with the best films I've seen.

It's also nice to see such a dark and depressing film end on somewhat of a bright and optimistic note, as the boy pulls a bicycle out of the ruins of a bombed out bridge, and he and Junge ride off to an uncertain, but less depressing, future.

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Description

Called dramatic, accurate and harrowing by the San Francisco Chronicle and nominated for the Oscar(r)for Best Foreign Film, Downfall takes you into Hitler's bunker during the brutal and harrowing last days of the Third Reich...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: Ganz
Manufacturer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Bruno Ganz
  • Alexandra Maria Lara
  • Corinna Harfouch

Reviews

Customer reviews
Average Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite war movie., May 10, 2017
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This review is from: Downfall (Blu-ray+DVD Combo) (DVD)
This film isn't amazing for shooting scenes or bombings. It's wonderful for anticipation and unsettling moments. You know how it's going to end but you don't know the intensity that went on during the last couple hours of his life. And it's in german which add to the realism. The actor who plays Hitler's is a little too chubby but asides from that he nails it. If your into subtitles and a war drama you'll definitely enjoy this one. I give it a 8 outta 10. And it didn't get a 10 out of ten simply because it's not crazy entertaining but done perfectly for what it was supposed to be.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unequivocally the best, most accurate account of Hitler's last days in ..., April 26, 2016
By 
E. Tobkes (Long Beach, NY) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Downfall (DVD)
Unequivocally the best, most accurate account of Hitler's last days in the bunker as told by his personal secretary. A German movie with subtitles, it lends an even more authentic feel to it, rather than have actors speaking in English with a German accent. If you are a history or WWII buff, this is an absolutely must see movie. Better yet, just buy it because you will want to see it more than once.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Awesome movie but decidedly not Blu-Ray quality-, July 30, 2017
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Downfall [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Don't get me wrong. The movie was outstanding, and masterfully made, historically, accurate, and well acted. Since, I long ago left a review on the movie, however, this review is about the quality of the Blu-Ray. Just imagine, for a moment, my joy at seeing one of my favorite movies made into Blu-Ray. No more standard DVD for me. I could get the sharpest, clearest picture and awesome sound ever. How could that be a bad thing? Well, it is if that's what you are expecting. This latest iteration is not like any Blu-Ray I've ever seen. As a matter of fact I can't tell the difference between it and the standard DVD. The picture is slightly grainy, and the sound is mediocre. If you're a veteran "Downfall" watcher and are excited to watch it, finally, in Blu-Ray, you will be disappointed. Don't waste your money. I actually put both DVD's side by side, watching one with my brand new Blu-Ray while watching the other, old and worn standard definition DVD. You can't tell... Read more
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Der Untergang, aka Downfall (2004) Chris

Summary: Downfall is a bleak, depressing, claustrophobic look at final days of Adolf Hitler and those who surrounded him during his final few days in Berlin.

4.0


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



One Response to Der Untergang, aka Downfall (2004)

  1. B Hellqvist says:

    I hope you’ve got around to watch the full movie, as it is brilliant. The first half hour sets the scene and introduces the characters as per SOP, and it has some important scenes that explains later events. The HJ boy is there to show the desperate fighting in the streets, as well as the madness of those final days when his father (a disabled vet) tries to persuade the HJ kids manning the AT gun to go home instead.

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