Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Overlooked Movies: Downfall (Der Untergang)

"I've got the feeling that I should be angry with this child, this young and oblivious girl. Or that I'm not allowed to forgive her for not seeing the nature of that monster. That she didn't realise what she was doing. And mostly because I've gone so obliviously. Because I wasn't a fanatic Nazi. I could have said in Berlin, "No, I'm not doing that. I don't want to go the Führer's headquarters." But I didn't do that. I was too curious. I didn't realise that fate would lead me somewhere I didn't want to be. But still, I find it hard to forgive myself." ~Traudl Junge Hitler's Personal Secretary

As the Russians advance through Berlin in the spring of 1945, Adolf Hitler and his remaining military and secretarial staff shelter in his large bunker complex in the centre of the city. His mood swings between completely unjustified optimism that his forces will still break through, and rage against the incompetence and betrayal of his military commanders. Reality does finally start to break through and the Fuhrer and the others in the bunker start to make their final personal preparations for the inevitable.

April 1945, a nation awaits its...

This film was Based on the books Der Untergang by historian Joachim Fest and Bis zur letzten Stunde by Traudl Junge, Hitler's last private secretary from 1942 to 1945.

To prepare for his role as the infamous Adolf Hitler Bruno Ganz studied Parkinson's patients in a Swiss hospital and developed his accent with the help of a young actor from Hitler's childhood home.

Most of the outdoor city scenes for the movie were filmed in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This was for two reasons, one the architecture of the city has many Germanic aspects. Second, there are plenty of streets with little or no modern advertisements and other commercial aspects.

Many of Hitler's lines are historically accurate, based on account of Albert Speer and Traudl Junge, most of them however are from earlier date.

Corinna Harfouch who played Magda Goebbels stated that she nearly broke down when filming the scene in which she gives her children their "medicine" to put them to sleep before poisoning them. Bruno Ganz felt similarly when he held the girl playing one of the Goebbels' children in his lap as they sang, because he knew that these children were soon to be murdered by their parents.

During the war, the majority of the cyanide capsules produced were made in the concentration camps, which made sabotage a real problem. This is one of the reasons why many Germans who committed suicide by cyanide also shot themselves to make sure they would die. This is also the reason why Hitler's beloved dog Blondi was poisoned; he wanted to make sure his batch of cyanide was not fake.

Of the thirty-seven named real life people featured as characters in the film, Rochus Misch was the only one who was still alive when the film was released. As of 2006, he is one of the last remaining survivors of the Führerbunker.

The movie featured interview samples with Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge taken from the documentary "Blind Spot" recorded in April and July 2001 (an amazing documentary you must see). Due to serious health problems Junge wasn't able to attend the film's premiere on the 9th of February 2002. The premiere had been a great success and the camera man went to hospital to inform Junge whereupon she is said to have answered "My lifework is accomplished. Now I can release." Just hours later she died aged 82 after a long fight against cancer.

Heinrich Himmler: When I meet Eisenhower, should I give the Nazi salute, or shake his hand?

Magda Goebbels: Sleep tight, children.

Traudl Junge: All these horrors I've heard of during the Nurnberg process, these six million Jews, other thinking people or people of another race, who perished. That shocked me deeply. But I hadn't made the connection with my past. I assured myself with the thought of not being personally guilty. And that I didn't know anything about the enormous scale of it. But one day I walked by a memorial plate of Sophie Scholl in the Franz-Joseph-Strasse. I saw that she was about my age and she was executed in the same year I came to Hitler. And at that moment I actually realised that a young age isn't an excuse. And that it might have been possible to get to know things.


Kal Zakath said...

This is a great movie, and helps us to not forget the harshness of war...

Becca said...

A really amazing movie with some of the most amazing performances I've ever seen. More people should see this film!

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

That was a brilliant film!

Anonymous said...

I really, really enjoyed this film. I borrowed it from my brother-in-law a few months ago and was quite pleased with it.

Dean Wormer said...

I'm going to rent this. Thanks for the head's up.

Does it make me a bad person because that quote you put up by Traudl Junge made me think of the pope?

Becca said...

Dr. Monkey-
Brilliant indeed!

A really powerful film that just stays with you.

Well the pope was a nazi...

Anonymous said...

Moviemaker Fritz Lang was a favorite of both Hitler and Goebells, but in 1931 he was making a movie that needed a crowd scene and he found his application to rent a hall refused. So he goes to the appropriate clerk and asks why. The clerk asks "What exactly is this film about?" The working title was "Murderers among us" and Fritz replies "It's a about a psychosexual deviant who kills little girls."
"Oh, that's okay" says the clerk, and the request was approved. A little later Fritz discovers the clerk was a Nazi. So,lest others get the wrong impression the title of the film was changed to "M"