April 1945. A nation awaits its downfall. House-to-house fighting rages
in the streets of the capital. Hitler, along with several of his generals
and closest confidants, has barricaded himself in the Fuehrer’s Bunker
under the Reichskanzlei. Among them is Traudl Junge, Hitler’s private
secretary, who doesn’t want to abandon him. While the situation outside
escalates – the Red Army is advancing, and in the city’s bomb-scarred
districts desperate scenes are unfolding – Hitler experiences the
downfall of the Third Reich behind thick bunker walls. Although Berlin can
no longer be held, the Fuehrer refuses to leave the city. He wants, as the
architect Speer puts it, "to be on stage when the last curtain falls."
But Hitler is not on stage. While the full force of the hopelessly lost
war crashes down over his people, the Fuehrer stages his final departure.
Only hours before their joint suicide, he marries Eva Braun. Instead of
the final victory comes the final defeat, but that has also been planned
down to the last detail. After Hitler and Eva Braun have taken their lives,
their corpses are burned so that they do not fall into the hands of the
enemy. Many of his faithful also choose suicide. Goebbels and the remaining
generals refuse to comply with the Russians' demand for unconditional surrender.
As the situation becomes ever more hopeless, Magda Goebbels poisons her
six children before she and her husband take their own lives. Shortly thereafter
Traudl Junge and several others manage to escape at the last minute...
times, when we learn about history or watch a film about that very topic,
we always are from the outside looking in. Then, when a film that does the
very opposite comes along, it's a gem! And that is the case with “Downfall”,
Germany’s submission for this year’s Academy Awards, which lost
out to “The Sea Inside”.
There have been a number
of films that have depicted Hitler’s rise but none so dictating his
fall. “Downfall” is that film. It shies away from elaborate
war sequences and concentrates on the deterioration of the human psyche,
marred by the horrors of war. In this two and a half hour spiral, Bruno
Ganz portrays Adolf Hitler so chillingly that the audience can feel both
disgusted yet sympathetic with the man. While we gape at the atrocities
of his actions on other human beings, we might also find some compassion
about a man who might just have been bent on achieving his dreams.
Yes, you might already
know how it all ends, but Oliver Hirschbiegel tackled a sensitive matter
alongside screenwriter, Bernd Eichinger and that has made the difference
because at the end of the day, someone had to tell the real story. And I
must say the Germans should be proud that they both gave the film the right
war films tend to focus on the battlefields, “Downfall” takes
the viewer into Hitler’s personal life, his room, his friends, what
he eats, the bunkers, the barracks and the hardest thing of all, into his
heart. Like placing a magnifying glass over an ant with the sun shining
brightly, witness the torturous civil war Hitler battles as he succumbs
to his downfall.
Code 3 DVD has an insightful “Making Of” featurette. Like the
film itself, the featurette ventures into the heart of the film by explaining
the origins of Downfall. There are also interviews with most of the cast
members as well as the director and playwright. Learn from the director
and playwright how their vision materialized into Downfall and watch Bruno
Ganz give his take on playing what could be the role of his life!
There is also
an “Interview” section on the DVD which is actually a vignette
of all the interviews that can be found in the “Making Of” section.
This is for those who want a quick summary of the conceptualization.
DVD comes in German Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1.
true to the period where debris and dry blood filled the streets of Germany,
the film is mainly depicted in grayish shades and dark blue tinges.
Review by Mohamad Shaifulbahri