"Only a poet could touch the edge of the Fuhrer mystery."
Welcome to the Third Reich on acid, or perhaps it's just another day in Hell with Adolf Hitler. This surreal trip through the twisted visions of history's most dreaded dictator is a brilliant tour de force for director and co-scripter Barry Hershey. Norman Rodway gives a commendable performance as Hitler (who once declared, "I am the greatest actor in Europe", a line repeated in this film), and there are smaller roles for henchmen Goebels and Goering, wife Eva Braun, and Sigmund Freud (who pops up on occasion to spar wryly with the Fuhrer). Add the victims of WWII, making cameos through the use of back-projected archive footage -- a sort of silent Greek chorus -- and you truly have the proverbial "cast of thousands" (or millions, if we include *all* the dead).
This is not a simple film, nor a simple subject, and the avant-garde approach taken here works superbly, lending insight and dramatic effect to what might otherwise have come off as a static monologue (or a staid conventional film, such as "Hitler: The Last Ten Days"). The pace lags a bit in the latter third, but the fluid transitions and liquid foldings of scene into scene, the use of special lighting and camera effects, and the imaginative editing generally keep the viewer entranced. The underground setting is unspecified -- perhaps it IS Hell, or merely the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin, 1945, as Hitler dreams away his last sunless days -- but many architectural features are taken from real places, Nazism's court composer Wagner is used effectively in the soundtrack, and much of the dialogue comes from Hitler's own speeches or writings, lending an air of authentic menace.
To gaze into the depths of the human soul is an unnerving experience; Rodway succeeds in displaying to us the many facets of Hitler's persona, in a voice that is sometimes reasonable and seductive, at other times a bestial howl. "I wasn't put in a lunatic asylum -- I *created* a lunatic asylum. I fused the symbolic with the real ... I exuded spiritual terror!" From gloating over his accomplishments and grandiose plans (including the rebuilding of Berlin to glorify his projected masoleum) to invoking a tidal wave of war and destruction, the evil sorcerer of National Socialism looks back on his reign knowing that his progeny would be many and that his legacy would hover, spectrelike, over the new millennium. "We gave them all much to brood over, didn't we, Joseph?" he chortles to his propaganda minister. But by the film's final Gotterdammerung, even the bloody megalomania of a Hitler is unable to cope with the horror unleashed. Even a Hitler can be brought to awareness, and despair; even a Hitler, eternally accursed and tormented beyond salvation, can be pitied as his horrible destiny ends with the proverbial whimper.
Read the history books to learn what happened, but watch "The Empty Mirror" to comprehend HOW it happened.