From the Academy Award" winning writer of The Pianist comes the provocative story, based on true events, of Wilhelm Furtwängler, arguably the most distinguished conductor of his generation.
After Hitler took over power in 1933, many Jewish artists were forced to leave Germany. Wilhelm Furtwängler (Stellan Skarsgård) chose to stay, serving as one of the Nazi`s foremost cultural assets. Though never a member of the Party, Furtwängler was the recipient of government honors and appointments, associated with party members. However, the conductor often used his position and contacts to save hundreds of Jewish musicians from the concentration camps.
When Major Steve Arnold (Harvey Keitel) is given the task of carrying out pre-trial investigations against Furtwängler, his aim is to prove that the conductors artistic genius contributed to the Nazi propaganda machine and their destructive ideology. Conversely, Furtwängler insists he chose to stay to bring comfort to the German people with his music.
Like a master conductor, director István Szabó orchestrates the debate from cat-and-mouse intensity. Taking Sides is that rare film that demands the audience to take a position on an issue: in this case, the complicity or innocence of Wilhelm Furtwängler.
An impassioned clash of art and politics lies at the heart of Taking Sides
, a historical drama that resonates with timeless relevance. Director Istvan Szabo remained in his native Hungary during Soviet occupation, and that experience clearly informed his approach to this fact-based film about Wilhelm Furtwangler, the celebrated conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, who chose to remain in Germany as the Nazis rose to power. World War II has ended, and now Furtwangler (superbly played by Stellan Skarsgârd) must endure intense interrogation by Steve Arnold (Harvey Keitel), a pugnacious U.S. Army major assigned to root out Nazi collaborators. While the overzealous Arnold deals in moral absolutes, Furtwangler's embrace of art for art's sake opens him up to charges that he supported Hitler, intentionally or not, by naively believing that art and politics could remain separate in the cauldron of the Third Reich. Based on the play by Ronald Harwood (The Pianist
), Taking Sides
presents a compelling collision of ideologies, probing complex personal and political motivations while presenting an authentic, emotionally charged portrait of German culture immediately following Hitler's demise. Despite its title, the film itself remains neutral regarding its central argument, leaving the viewer to ponder the weighty issues involved. --Jeff Shannon