Published on October 22nd, 2007 | by Chris1
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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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 InformationBinding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Manufacturer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original Release Date:
- Bruno Ganz
- Alexandra Maria Lara
- Corinna Harfouch
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.