Now, it may seem to some that it's unusual that Bushflash, a site that deals with the politics of the day, would bother reviewing a german-language film about the fall of the third reich.
The reason for the review, simply put, is that this film is nothing short of a masterpiece.
The creators of this film sought to present historical accuracy on every level, and succeeded, in ways that no other film on the subject of WW2 has come close to.
And nowhere else is this historical accuracy observed more closely, than in the depiction of Adolf Hitler, portrayed, for the first time, by a german actor, (Bruno Ganz.)
Allow me to extemporize, for a moment...
In times past, innumerable movies and television shows have been made on the subject of Adolf Hitler, and the third reich. In each and every one of these films, Adolf Hitler has always been portrayed as a monster- a gross charicature of the very embodiment of evil, played up to an extent that leaves one with the image of Hitler as some anomaly- not human at all, but rather, the embodiment of whatever preconceptions of absolute evil that the particular filmmaker wished to push upon a cluesless and historically ignorant audience.
In doing this, I have always found such films to be trite, and dangerous. When we see such a figure as Hitler lampooned and disfigured beyond all recognition as a human being, we are led to believe that the atrocities that this man committed were the acts of some sort of evil demigod/chimera. We are thus fooled into forgetting that the evil of the third reich was a product of humanity.
Foul humanity, yes. Sick humanity, yes. Reprehensible, unforgiveable, and disgusting humanity, yes. But humanity, nonetheless.
We must never forget that the grotesque savagry that was a trademark of the third reich was a result of human nature, and that those who perpetrated these acts of war and genocide were human beings- stunted, foul human beings, yet every bit as human as you and I.
We must remember this, not so that we may identify with, or sympathize with these murderers, but so that we can recognize the evil that potentially dwells within us, both individually and collectively, and thwart it, when it arises.
When previous films portrayed the capos of the third reich as cartoonish figures, the viewer is left saying to themselves "yeah, whenever I see a two-dimensional, drooling, fanatical bufoon, I should be careful, but I KNOW I can trust my politicians, because they don't drool and scream" (Tom DeLay and John Bolton excepted.)
We cannot turn these people into characatures, or think of them as demigods, detached from humanity. When we do, we do so at our peril.
That having been said:
I'll admit, before I proceed, that I've studied the second world war in depth for well onto 20 years, primarily the european theater of that particular war. My dedication to the subject has made some people wonder if I'm not secretly a Stalinist or Neo Nazi, considering my affinity for the subject. All's I can say is: "I like history- so sue me- maybe if alla the people who cheered so much for this war in Iraq had studied as much as I have about unilateral wars against nonoffending nations, maybe we wouldn't find ourselves in the mess we are, today."
Bruno Ganz's portrayal of Hitler is the most accurate I've ever seen. His speech, his mannerisms, his movements, are dead-on. Even when Ganz goes berzerk, and turns red-faced in the presence of "his generals", those tirades are portrayals of actual events and conversations, with very little embellishment. We see the dictator as he was- not as some hollywood producer would have us see him, and surprise, surprise, these glimpses into Hitler's latent humanity make him all the more frightening.
The rest of the cast, down to the last member, is as close to historical perfection as can be.
The cinematography and sets are equally flawless. I was surprised to hear that the film's street scenes had been shot in St Petersburg, rather than Berlin, but what do I know of architecture? The film's atmosphere is most intense, in the majority of the film's scenes which take place within the confines of the Fuhrerbunker. The sense of claustrophobia and confinement heighten the sense of impending disaster.
And the crowning touch to me, personally, was the outdoor sound effect work. During the few egresses of the bunker staff, I kept hearing a whooshing, whistling sound that, for the first half of the film, I thought was some sort of alarm- until I recognized the sound as the firing of the "Stalin Organ" (the Soviet missile battery that was one of the most effective military innovations of that war.)
SImply put- this is definitely one of the best films ever made on the subject of the second world war, and the best film ever made about the end of the war. It's subtitled, but don't let that turn you off.