Thursday, September 19, 2013

Der Untergang / Downfall (2004)

I'm a curious person, and I'm most curious about controversial things. Nazi-themed movies are one of my favorites because it opens my mind about what actually happens during those horrible World War II. I've watched Schindler's List, The Pianist, and the more recent, Inglorious Basterds. All have similarities about the explicit violences and the portrayal of the victims, be it Jews or Polish. Downfall, however, chooses to portray the man behind the war, The Fuhrer himself.

The movie takes place in Fuhrerbunker, underneath Berlin, where Hitler and his followers hid during the Soviet Army attacks to bring an end to World War II. From this bunker Hitler and his generals are still able to send orders and attacks to the Soviet Army via telegrams or telephones. The film has grim ambiance because many of the scenes happens in the bunker, with narrow hallways, closed rooms, thick iron doors and dim lights. It certainly fits with the war theme, where an explosion sometimes would happen and shake the bunker.

During this dreadful time, Hitler's generals have known that the war is lost. German troops everywhere have been cornered or killed by the Soviet Army. They can't mobilize enough troops to make a retaliation, many of the troops and civilians have been evacuated out of Berlin. The Fuhrer chooses to stay. He insists that he will fight, or face his downfall. But he won't surrender. To him, surrender is a treason to his 'superior' descent.

In many of the scenes, we can see that at this point in the war, Hitler doesn't seem to care much of the civilians. He only cares about his Reich and what may become of it. He doesn't mind sacrificing his civilians as long as he can keep his Reich.

Bruno Ganz's dramatic acting deserves a standing ovation. Through his acts, we are able to see Hitler's vulnerable state. He is angry, he blames his generals and his troops, he punished everyone who suggested him to surrender, he is desperate to win this impossible war, he is illogical at his final hours. He keeps talking about the troops that no longer have neither power or units to attack. He can't accept the fact that he already lost the war. He commits suicide with his recently-wed wife, Eva Braun, in the bunker.

The Goebbels family
Despite all the atrocity Hitler did, there are a lot of people who are faithful to him until the end. His generals, his troops, his secretaries, are gladly die for him. In his final days, a lot of people persuade Hitler to leave Berlin because they don't want to lose their Fuhrer. It's amazing to know that there are people who actually believe in The Reich and Hitler's government. Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda, was ordered to evacuate by The Fuhrer but he refuses and choose to die with him. His wife, poisons their six children, and they proceed to commit murder-suicide because they can't stand the thought of living without national socialism (Nazism). In some of the scenes, the Goebbels children are shown to be very close to their Uncle Hitler. They even sang for him on his birthday.

It's interesting to see a different view of the Nazi and World War II. This movie is based on 'Memoirs', a book written by The Fuhrer's secretary, Traudl Junge, who was with The Fuhrer at the bunker but then evacuates minutes before Soviet Army breach the bunker. It's a different view of The Fuhrer, and to me, it's exciting.

You probably know this particular scene, it has been parodied so many times for so many events in so many languages. I'm just saying, it's worth it to see the actual movie.

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