348 of 360 people found the following review helpful
"Your Little Throats Are Being Cut"
, May 10, 2005
"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.
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