Downfall (Der untergang)


Millions will curse me, but fate has taken its course.

The German filmmakers behind Der Untergang (Downfall) took a great risk when they decided to do a film about Hitler, especially from a purely narrative standpoint and not a propaganda piece or subjective film. It’s not disconcerting enough to warrant a disclaimer, but still, the film paints Hitler and the rest of the upper echelon Nazis as human beings, which may upset some people that wish to only see them as monsters. And monsters they are, but human ones, and this must be kept in mind when watching a film such as this. The story is framed with the narrative device of the hiring of Hitler’s personal secretary, Frau Junge, at the beginning of the film. From then on, the story is told largely from a third-person perspective of Junge as she lives the last days of Hitler with the rest of his faithfuls.

The film documents the last 10 days of Hitler’s life & regime in Nazi Germany, and does so through a powerful and committed lens, with some beautifully striking cinematography and a central performance that is just as powerful as the rest of the film. The whole thing is incredibly potent, and quite remarkable to watch, as touchy as the subject matter may be. Much of the film is also spent in the warzone itself, and the film has a very Saving Private Ryan look about it, but much darker and full of a lot more shades of gray. What colors there are are all dusty from the ravages of war, and it is only the human beings that seem to have any life to them, as ironic as that thought may be when it is about Nazis. It’s all very uncompromising, as a war film should be, but even the sections in the Fuhrerbunker are of the same quality as the rest of the film.

All in all, this is a gripping portrayal of the demise of one of the most evil groups to ever raze the earth; mass suicide and cyanide poisonings aplenty are to be found near the later parts of the film, as all those loyal to Hitler choose death over any alternative in a life without National Socialism, as Frau Goebbels puts it. The film is long, I’ll say that, but surprisingly it doesn’t drag as much as you’d think, and there’s always something happening, and some new info or update on the efforts and how they’re spiraling downward into oblivion. If you don’t mind the whole “Nazis are human” thing, give this one a try, if only for Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of the man himself, which is as explosive as it is impressive.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10


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