295 of 305 people found the following review helpful
"Downfall" is one of the most astonishing movies I have seen this year. I am a little baffled that it hasn't received more attention in the United States. Bruno Ganz should have gotten an Oscar nomination for best actor. But it did get a nomination for best foreign film. "Downfall" is easily as good and gripping as the renowned hit "Das Boot". It's probably the case that foreign movies don't get as much attention now as they did in the 1980's. Nevertheless, this fine film should have a long life on DVD.
"Downfall" has caused some controversy because it depicts Adolf Hitler not as a demon, but as a human being who was kind to his young secretaries and his dogs. In fact this makes his evil all the more insidious and monstrous. "Downfall" can be seen as an attempt by Germans to come to terms with their part in Hitler's crimes. How could a not-entirely-bad man like Albert Speer or an innocent like Traudl Junge retain their loyalty and admiration for such a diseased figure? We see the terrible events of April 1945 through German eyes. This involves acknowledging the horrible suffering of the German people as they were bombed and smashed into surrender. (Definitely, however, without letting them off the hook for their moral responsibility for the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity.)
We see Berlin turned into an apocalyptic landscape that would not seem out of place in the Book of Revelation. Gangs of murdering Nazis roam the rubble, looking for final victims to lynch. The Volkssturm, the army of old men and little boys recruited for the last defense of the city, is slaughtered by the advancing Russians. Officials of the regime are committing suicide right and left. (Some historians say there were more suicides among the Germans during the end than among the Japanese.) Down in the fuehrer's bunker Hitler's young secretary Traudl Junge (the wide-eyed, pretty, sweet Alexandra Maria Lara) witnesses the death throes of the Reich. Bruno Ganz is amazing as Hitler. The warm, human angel of "Wings of Desire" is entirely gone, replaced by this occasionally lucid, frequently rabid being. For long stretches of the movie, I swear, I entirely forgot there was an actor working up on the screen and it seemed as if I was watching Hitler himself in all his malignancy.
The movie turns the screws of suspense as things get worse and worse, and you get a solemn sense of justice being done at last. (Although there are still crimes that can be committed, like the diabolical murder of Goebbels' small children by their mother, shown in graphic detail.) The key to the movie perhaps can be had in a little speech by Goebbels. An army General protests the wanton slaughter of civilians and the Volkssturm. Goebbels replies, "I have no sympathy. No sympathy! The German people gave us the mandate. And now you cry because your little throats are being cut." It's a chilling moment. And a sobering reminder that politicians must be held accountable, and the people of a nation have to be responsible in their choice of leaders.
118 of 121 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2005
I thought it was a goof when we hear a German general suddenly speaking in Russian while negotiating a surrender. So I did a little fact-checking and was surprised to see how accurately events and characters are portrayed, down to the spoken lines and physical appearance of supporting actors. The general in question was Krebs and he was indeed fluent in Russian (Cornelius Ryan, "The Last Battle", p. 468)
For historical accuracy alone, this is a movie that puts all of Hollywood war movies to shame.
387 of 426 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2005
I saw this film in Germany in November, 2004, and picked up a copy in Berlin this March...my pre-ordered Amazon.de copy was waiting for me on my return.
This film is essential for anyone who wishes to understand "the evil that men do" (and women, for example, Frau Goebbels, who killed her children because she did not want them to grow up in a world without National Socialism, Nazism). It is a deep film, based on the historical novel of Joachim Fest, and the stunning documentary "Blind Spot" (Bis Zum Toten Winkel) revealing the thoughts of Hitler's personal secretary, Traudl Humps (married to an SS officer on Hitler's staff who was killed in 1943, she became Traudl Jung), shortly before her death as the millenium turned.
The acting is superb. The best new crop of German actors, as well as Bruno Ganz portraying Der Führer himself, are excellent. Most of the elements that led to the coming of the Holocaust, the Third Reich, and its downfall are cleverly intertwined in this phenomenally staged docudrama. In several viewings, I could find virtually nothing to criticize, down to the china used in the bunker, or so-called Führerbunker, to the attitudes of the many Field Marshalls, who were in many ways as "apolitical" as General Tommy Franks, attitudes of resignation, as suicide as the last honorable gesture, of "doing the right thing."
Such films have to be seen in context. After 60 years of banishment of the swastika (Hakenkreuz in German) in Germany, we see the swastika in its full "glory" throughout the film, the beautiful and attractive uniforms originally designed by Hugo Boss (no kidding). In context, in 2004, Germans were suddenly faced with an extremely well-made film that shows Hitler as nearly human (hiding is Parkinsonian tremor of his left hand behind his back as he presents the Iron Cross, 2nd Class, to Hitler Youth defending Berlin after the declaration of "Clausewitz"--Berlin as a war front. While other officers plead for the evacuation of women and children, Hitler responds that the German people (das Volk) do not deserve to survive, because they have lost this war. National Socialism is revealed as the death culture it was. In other contexts, there are excellend books, articles, and documentaries revealing how willing the German Volk were to turn over all thought, conscience, morality, to the Führer, who encouraged them to do so. Unfortunately, the next 60 years would show that the attitudes of National Socialism did not die with him.
I could individually commend the performances of the many players and people behind the scenes. I have been to Berlin, and this IS Berlin, to any approximation I have seen in photos of the time, and I have been in the last remaining Air Raid shelter (bunker) for the populace and it is no different from this soundstage, save the furniture that was probably taken from Jews years before by the party, which ended up as furnishings in the many homes of the high command and Hitler.
After viewing the film, I do recommend that the viewer take in "Schindler's List" or "The Pianist" to complement it. As we are faced with worldwide conflagration against a non-uniformed enemy of Western culture and democracy, it is hard to think of World War Two as the last of the "civilized" wars, even though it was perhaps the last of uniformed armies facing one another (the Cold War, which never went hot, excluded).
This film does show, through the characters of Traudl Junge and her young friend, the Hitler Youth decorated by Hitler personally, as they walk through the Soviet line on their way back to Bavaria, that the policy of war as a solution to any international dispute is at best fragile. Perhaps that fragility is our best hope for peace.
148 of 171 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2007
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
If you want to know how it feels to enter the abyss, then watch this movie. The viewer is crushed by the heartache of the coming end of the Reich, and wonders how any person could emerge from it with a measure of sanity remaining. Civilians trapped in the street fighting; children enduring tank assaults; the constant drumbeat of incoming artillery; and meanwhile against the constant backdrop of the unreality of the Fuhrerbunker, the men and women living in their "wolkenskukushiem."
What is it like to experience total and utter defeat? The world you have known is collapsing around you, and you are totally helpless to stop it.
Watch the face of the actor who plays Brigadefuhrer Mohnke as he hears Göbbels telling him that the German people will have their "little throats" cut. What would go through YOUR mind? Watch as an SS doctor works his way through the bunker, even as men of the Nordland and Charlemagne SS troops (yes... Norwegians and French volunteers fighting the last battle around the Führerbunker) recheck their equipment and load what little ammunition they have left. The shock on Gen. Helmut Weidling's face, the commander of the famed 56th PanzerKorps, as he is told that HE's now the commandant of Berlin's defenses. The flash of reality that crosses Eva Braun's face when she gives away her mink coat to Traudl Junge, a rare glimpse through the forced happiness she otherwise displayed.
But in the midst of the carnage there is real courage. Forget the politics, forget the Nazis, as you see that there were people who displayed REAL courage in hopeless circumstances... soldiers and civilians fighting hopeless battles through the crumbling streets of Berlin. My mother saw and experienced some of this same anguish in Southern Germany.
But now for the problem-- a BIG problem. Soviet atrocities are completely expunged. Even Traudl Junge is shown to have escaped the Russians unscathed... pure fantasy. She was raped by the Soviets numerous times. While SS and Nazi atrocities are shown repeatedly, (guys hanging "defeatists" for example), there is not ONE Russian atrocity displayed. Not one. Thus, despite the fact that the movie is well done and reasonably accurate historically in many areas, it actually strives to rewrite and sanitize history.
Nevertheless, the acting is well done. Ganz does a superb job of humanizing Hitler, which of course makes this movie controversial. Despite the problem above, and my three star rating, the movie is still worth seeing, or even owning. The scenes are riveting and heartrending, and will remind us of the tragedy that became known as the Battle of Berlin. It should also remind us of what happens when people surrender themselves to the power of the State, to let the State run their lives and "care" for them in its brutal maw.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2005
Why did this movie not win an Oscar? It goes to show how retarded holywood has become. This is one of the best movies of the last decade.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2005
Downfall proves to be an excellent movie about the last days of the Third Reich, as Hitler and his closest advisors and friends dealt with the total destruction of their world around them. This movie will be compared with the two earlier efforts made in the English language and needless to say, Downfall surpassed both of these films quite easily.
The movie in parts, is seen through the eyes of Traudl Junge, Hitler's personal secretary. Its through her perception that we get a balanced view of Adolf Hitler who borderline as psychopathic manaic as the Fuhrer of the Third Reich and a more human Hitler when viewed in a private setting. Hitler, played fantastically well by Bruno Ganz remained the core of the movie as the sun from which all planets evolved around. Ganz captured Hitler perfectly, showing all elements of Hitler's personality with a fine touch of balance. This was something Alec Guiness and Anthony Hopkins were unable to do in their effort. Ganz was well supported by his supporting players, I was specially impressed with Corinna Harfoual who played Madga Goebbel and the scene where she murdered her children proves to be quite disturbing as well as chilling.
I think the only real weakness of the movie comes in the introduction of some of the characters. For many who are not strong in history of the Third Reich, many of the characters and their functions will appears to be confusing and mysterious. The movie doesn't do a very good job in introduction of host of characters.
The DVD edition of this film proves to be pretty well put together. I owned a regular 45 inch projection TV and the images looked quite good. The German language 5.1 proves to be quite active and the English subtitles proves to be easy to read and understand. There are two special features item. One is the "Making of Downfall" feature and other is individual interviews with some of the actors. If you see the "Making of" feature first, there is no reason to see the interviews since the interviews all came from the "Making of Downfall" feature.
The movie come highly recommended to anyone who have an interest in this genre.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
One of the most significant statements of the always reminded master of the cinema, Robert Bresson, was :"To be models; instead of look like actors." I would say that Olivier Hirschbiegel unconsciously followed this wisdom advise. This (Should I just label it film, or perhaps this term be insufficient, why not better to design it supreme artwork?) masterpiece simply surpassed all the eloquent adjectives of previous reviews.
The impressive narrative dissection, supported by a sinewy script, is loaded of such burden of mesmerizing, engaging and delirious realism, that literally involves you from start to end. This outstanding work is a true radiograph that explores with merciless crudeness all the insights of the last ten days of Adolf Hitler.
Bruno Ganz followed his bliss and stole that coveted pearl, that justifies the supreme artistic achievement of his lifetime. From the initial shot when the nervous secretaries wait for him, until his last Farewell; his delirious anger accesses, increasing withdrawal of the reality, eloquent grimaces deserves for him (without forget Javier Bardem in Sea Inside) the most towering performance in years.
On the other hand the camera leads us to the struggling and increasingly claustrophobic environment. The camera handle and the fabulous angle shots from the floor accent still more that oppressive atmosphere (Do you remember Orson Welles The Trial?).
The inner tragedy is expressed with vibrant expression. Three expressive sequences are enough to support it: watch for instance the ominous sequence in which Goebbels wife dismisses from her children, the child `s horror at the moment he will have to face the death in its portent in the middle of the flaming wrecks and finally the elusive gaze of Eva Braun in her last supper.
On the other hand, the dialogues are never superfluous. With a visible resources economy, Hirshbiegel built a huge stage that reminds us the true intention of the Greek Tragedy or Wagner in Gotterdamenung, to shake the soul through the catastrophe, is what we experience after we leave the Hall a true cathartic experience.
That superior coherence, the fact of fixing without congealing the feat of communicate expressions without the use of words is what it makes of this artwork a supreme masterpiece.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2005
I am a german woman. After I saw this movie I felt terrible. It is hardly to believe what happened once. This movie shows the last days of Adolf Hitler. There exist many movies about Hitler, but this one is something special, because the actors and actresses are more than convincing. The movie shows a Hitler who also has a human side. Many people, also me, are sceptical about this, but first this fact gives the movie something special.
You can not only see the last days of this brutal man, also of the doctor Goebbel and his family.
This movie is one of the best movies I have ever seen and in my opinion the best movie which was ever made by germans...
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
This is a recreation of the last days in the Hitler bunker before Germany surrendered. It features a powerhouse performance by Bruno Ganz as Adolph Hitler, ranging from frustrated paranoia, self-delusion, rage and acts of kindness toward some on his staff. Ganz avoids haminess and bulging eyes to give a very unsettling portrait of a rational monster, so charismatic he could still command the loyalty of the Army, the SS and his personal staff, but who also was an increasingly broken, delusional leader subject to almost incoherent rages.
What struck me in this movie was the degree to which the people around Hitler continued to serve him. Increasingly among themselves they questioned his judgment and even his sanity, and certainly worried about their own safety, but they did his bidding. If any case could be made about the evil such concepts as patriotism, honor and loyalty can be put to, this movie is one to study. One of the most disturbing scenes is Magda Goebels with the assistance of an SS doctor giving her children sleeping drafts. She returns later and while her husband waits outside the children's room, she places a cyanide capsule in each mouth and forces her children's jaws shut to crunch open the ampules. She kills each child. She couldn't conceive of a world without National Socialism and didn't want her children to live in a world without it.
Most of the movie takes place in the bunker, to some extent from the vantage point of one of Hitler's secretaries, Traudle Junge. Enough takes place above ground amid the fighting and wreckage of what Berlin had become to give a clear idea of the horrors Hitler visited among Germans. One has to remember the millions who died by Hitler's orders, and that they died largely at the hands of other Germans. Still, pointless deaths of boys and girls scarcely in their teens, lynchings of frightened deserters and grandfathers by Nazi vigilantes is not pleasant viewing.
The Hitler bunker was a situation where fact was far stranger than fiction could ever be. I thought this was a compelling movie.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Wow, this is one fine film. I disagree with the many on here who claim this whitewashes the Nazis, or makes Hitler cuddly. Those folks were watching some other film. These are brutal, vicious, cold and evil people, willing to sacrifice any number of individuals for a corporate goal. And who cares whether the secretaries have sufficient blame. Of no consequence! The story is gripping, the collapse of a world where one man's will made an empire and then caused that empire to crumble, leaving behind smoking rubble, panic, butchery, death, and chaos. No better evocation exists that I know of showing what happens when man elevates man to omniscience and omnipotence, and then watches the inevitable collapse.
The Hitler we see is a man completely used to having his will carried out, and for the first time he can no longer exercise that will. The needed soldiers aren't there. The ammunition is spent. The Russians are closing in. He cannot speak the world he wants into existence any more, and he opts to kill himself when denied that power. One detail is piled onto another, deftly showing how Germany has transferred all thinking and reasoning to one man, one evil man, and is now reaping the consequences. Two scenes stand out. Eva Braun, played wonderfully as girl who likes to party and dance, but is nevertheless totally devoted, begs for the life of her brother in law. Hitler says "No mercy for traitors" and she replies, quite reasonably, "What difference does that make now? It's all over. Think of my pregnant sister!" But justice must be carried out, because, as Hitler thunders "It is my will!" Eva says, "You are the Fuhrer" and the argument is closed. 90 seconds captures it all.
In another brief episode, a young nurse, who has never known a world without Hitler's all-encompassing leadership, begs him to act to save Germany. If he would speak, Germany would be saved. What a lovely quick portrait of a generation that has given up its power of thought.
There are many other great touches. The feel is claustrophobic and shabby, with shiny silverware and lovely chandeliers incapable of disguising the ever-present fact that they are hidden underground in an ugly concrete fortress where the lights flicker regularly. Frau Goebbels finishing off her lovely children, saving them from a world without National Socialism. We watch in disgust as she kills these gorgeous young angels. And Hitler being asked for an ID card at his wedding? Perfect. The law above all things!
How anyone could feel anything other than contempt and disgust for these savages is beyond me. Oh yes, they were people, indeed. Maybe that's what this film's many critics don't like; we prefer our monsters to be something other than human, and therefore, unlike us. But this story is the tale of people just like us. People who thought they were working for "good." People who believed in the human goodness, and found death the only way out when they lost that faith.