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Customer Review

348 of 360 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "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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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 25, 2008 9:46:37 AM PST
M. Schroeder says:
Hi, I have always thought Hitler as a stranger person because of the following:

"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.

Stalin was just scared that every other living soul was out to get him, Hitler loved individuals, but hated people.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2011 10:57:41 PM PDT
S. Nicholas says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Nov 15, 2011 8:17:35 PM PST
paul6578 says:
Spectacular comment. Well-written and well thought-out. Untergang is one of my favorite movies and I agree with every insightful word you've written. I look forward to reading some of your other reviews. I have written on Amazon about Poltergeist III and Caprica.

Posted on Mar 5, 2012 7:43:03 PM PST
Very good review in terms of summing up the powerful insight of this film, and the great performance by Bruno Ganz. Fans of the film who have not already satisfied their curiosity about actual historical circumstances and personalities might admire the film even more after viewing interviews of Hitler's inner circle, including Traudl Junge and Albert Speer, in The World at War [Blu-ray] , or reading one of the competent historical accounts of the last days of Hitler such as The Bunker.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2012 10:38:35 PM PST
paul6578 says:
Hitler wasn't kind to his secretaries or his dogs. When his secretaries offered to stay with him when he knew the war was lost, he allowed them to, instead of having them whisked away from the bunker in the dead of night. As for his dog, he gave it cyanide instead of just having his troops let it loose in the countryside, where it might have had a chance. To the director's credit, the movie depicts all of this. All of Hitler's actions were maniacal and selfish unto the very end.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2013 4:22:57 PM PDT
T. S. C. says:
'All of Hitler's actions were maniacal and selfish unto the very end.'

Yes, history seems to bear out that interpretation. Utterly selfish and completely deranged, if not mad.

Posted on Aug 16, 2014 6:04:04 PM PDT
Demosthenes says:
This is a landmark film.

Bruno Ganz' portrayal of Hitler is towering. It is one of the great film performances of all time. Unbelievably powerful. Riveting. Mesmerizing. If you have watched old newsreels from the 30's, and from the war, you will immediately understand. Ganz should undoubtedly have won the Oscar for Best Actor.

Perhaps the true indication of the notoriety and recognition of the performance is the number of times it has been parodied, e.g., the Hillary Clinton 2008 Downfall clip is a classic.

Similarly, the work should easily have won for best foreign language film.

But the Academy could never, ever, give either award to any film about Hitler, no matter how well made, no matter how well performed.

Which says a lot more about the Academy than about the film.

People will still watch this film, and recognize Ganz' phenomenal performance as definitive, 30, 40, 50 years from now, maybe longer: far longer than people will remember its (already-forgotten) contemporaries.

Posted on Jan 27, 2016 4:52:55 PM PST
stilbo says:
As I write this in January 2016, I have to equate the rise of Donald Trump and his rabid followers with the author's last sentence: "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."

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2016 7:36:36 PM PDT
Mac Guy says:
I recently watched a documentary on Netflix 'Hitler and the Nazis', it depicts the rise of Hitler from the beginning. It instantly reminded me of Trump, great on rhetoric, saying what the people want to hear, but on analysis no details just promises that sounds far fetched.
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R. W. Rasband
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Location: Heber City, UT

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