Publicity Stills of "Napola-Hitler's Elite"
(Courtesy from Lighthouse Pictures)


Hamptons International Film Festival

Winner -- BEST ACTOR
Karlovy Vary Internation Film Festival

Bavaria Film Festival

Winner -- BEST FILM
Viareggio Europacinema Film Festival

In German with English Subtitles and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Dennis Gansel
Starring: Max Riemelt, Tom Schilling, Devid Striesow, Joachim Bissmeier, Justus von Dohnanyi
RunTime: 1 hr 48 mins
Released By: Lighthouse Pictures & Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: NC-16 (War violence)

Website: http://www.lhp.com.sg/napola

Opening Day: 11 August 2005 (Exclusively at Cathay Cineplex Orchard)

Interact with our members on "Napola" here!

Synopsis :

This film is about the a type of Nazi school called the NPEA, which means NAtional POLitische erziehungs Anstalt (National Political Education Institute) designed to train the future Gauleiters (heads of Nazi Districts) of the world. Napola was the popular name for the schools; just as Nazi was for NAtional soZIalist.

Movie Review:

“In my fortresses, we shall raise a young generation that will make the world tremble with fear…” – Adolf Hitler

With this vision, Adolf Hitler created an ideology so potent and influential that the National-Political Institutes of Learning (Napolas) are remembered till this day. Napolas are military institutions that train cadets into Gauleiters, Head of the Nazi (NSDAP) district. The cadets are considered the superior breed and the elites of the Germans, destined to be future generals. And it is on this premise that the film Napola is based on.

Friedrich Weimer (Max Riemelt) is a young, diligent lad working in Berlin in 1942. Coming from a working class family, he longs for a better life for himself and his family. His luck turned for the better when one day, his passion for boxing brought him nearer to his goal. In a boxing bout, his astounding agility and fighting prowess caught the eye of a recruiting officer Heinrich Vogler (Devid Striesow) from Napola. Impressed by his abilities, Heinrich invited Friedrich to join the prestigious Napola in Allenstein (a city in North-East Poland) and the latter willingly obliged.

Friedrich met Albrecht Stein (Tom Schilling) in a chance encounter during his training and discovered that he is the son of a high-ranking German officer. Contrary to Friedrich’s ruggedness and grit, Albrecht comes across as weak and soft. It’s this characteristics of Albrecht that prompts Friedrich to be protective towards him. And it’s the deep friendship forged between them that ultimately makes Friedrich question his belief and change his life forever.

Director Dennis Gansel has crafted a masterpiece out of this film. He illustrates vividly how young innocent adolescents are indoctrinated by Nazism, a form of fascist ideology (the dominant and oppressive, violent control by a dictator through terror and censorship, which involves racism at times). He enables the audience to experience the dilemma faced by the young cadets, which is to choose between being subservient to the Third Reich or risked losing all through expulsion. And most importantly, it allows the audience to catch a glimpse of the practices of the Nazis, their wanton killings of Russian POWs and the crazed desire to excel, even among their own breed. It’s definitely Darwinism Theory stretched beyond the limit.

The contrast in character between the two male leads and their different views on Nazism are also interesting highlights of the film. Being able-bodied, Friedrich senses the fragility in Albrecht and tries to make him stronger through encouragement. Albrecht, on the other hand, tried to talk Friedrich out of serving the school and abiding by their ideology. It’s this conflict of interest between them and the ultimate decisions that they made that truly makes this film one of the finest in German cinema, and possibly in the international film arena as well. As at time of typing, this film has already garnered several wins and being screened in various film festivals.

There have been several war films being made over the past years, such as Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002), seeing the brutality of war through the eyes of a Jew. Then there’s the TV series Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003), a biography that traces the life of Adolf Hitler. And there’s Downfall (2004), a recent film that narrates the last hours of the German dictator. However, nothing comes as close to this film as Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993), both of which portrays a Good Samaritan in a German. While Oskar Schindler may be seen as a German rescuing the helpless Jews, a more poignant portrayal is seen in this film in the form of the two male protagonists vacillating between accepting and rejecting the ideology of Nazism. It exemplifies the fact that there exists individuals who renounce Nazism and defy its ideology that is imposed on them.

This is a film that doesn’t follow conventional practice of basing the story directly on the Holocaust and the Third Reich but rather, provides an alternative voice. In the past, war films have placed their focus on the cruelty and brutality in the battlefield with little or no character focus. This film goes beyond traditional filmmaking in this genre by placing a humane face to the film, with characterisation of the protagonists superceding events.

While some viewers may feel that the film is bias (considering that it is fictitious and produced by a German director), it is enlightening to know that the story adheres closely to actual events. That the Germans actually acknowledge the few unsung heroes who dared to resist the ideologies of Hitler and willing to pay the price for defiance are commendable.

And this is their untold story.

Movie Rating:

(An introspective look at exploited youths by the Third Reich. A brilliant film!)

Review by Patrick Tay

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