I had meant for this to go up for remembrance day, but a lot of things came up that have prevented me from sitting down and writing anything for a bit now.
I like many others got my first glimpse at Downfall from those parody videos, particularly the one where Bluray won the format wars:
it is quite puzzling that the owners of Der Untergang, went on a head hunt for those videos (semi recently, this is ten years too late after all) as i’m sure a very large chunk of foreign viewers sought it out due to those videos in the first place. But enough about this bit of silliness, we’re talking about a serious war movie, about serious people, seriously playing pretend in front of a camera for our amusement, so lets get to the nitty gritty.
The Third Reich’s days are numbered as the Red Army tightens the noose around Berlin’s neck.
It’s very hard to praise a film like this, after can i really say that Bruno Ganz gives a great performance as Hitler without it sounding a bit strange? I really don’t want to support or sympathize with the Nazi’s or Hitler however this film paints such a drab picture of the Nazi’s last days that just a little bit of sympathies do start to emerge. I think Ebert said it best:
“…Sympathy I felt in the sense that I would feel it for a rabid dog, while accepting that it must be destroyed….”
Indeed, the affect the film has over me is akin to watching the last breaths of some immensely large and savage animal. The creature must be destroyed, as its rampage has destroyed lives and stained hearts and minds with its savagery, but when it finally goes down its end is so immense that it is impossible to look away, and is thrilling as spectacle. Particularly the film does a remarkable job of capturing the feel of the end times for a regime.
Its slow pacing allows it to dwell on various view points, and through these i get a sense of what it must’ve been to witness and live to see the end of a way of life. Denial, anger, and acceptance are all given thoughtful representation through the actions of various characters.
Much criticism has been leveled at the film for its attempts (and frankly success) in humanizing Hitler, but the film also doesn’t shy away from the honest facts of his brutal rule. Only somebody who is already blind will feel lasting sympathies for this crumbling regime, as while Hitler is seen to be rather friendly and grandfatherly particularly in the opening scenes, the fact remains that he dug his own grave by being a diluted and incompetent leader, and also a horrendously hateful person.
Just listen to hypocrisies that come out of his and Goebbels mouths, they yell and scream about wanting to spend their last breaths fighting off the Red Army and yet when push comes to shove they commit suicide. Goebbels in particular is as rancid a piece of shit as anyone can squeeze out for letting his wife murder his children, and sending ill equipped men to be slaughtered all the while blaming the German people for their fate.
Hitler proclaims again and again that he fights for the German people from the safety of his heavily fortified bunker, all the while telling his ministers to destroy infrastructure and blaming the German people that it is their weakness that has led to this fate, and all of this is between fits of yelling and screaming like a petulant child when the brutal realities of the war slap his delusions in the face.
While there is barely any mention of the Holocaust in the film, Hitler and others show their contempt for their own people with every action they take. Again i feel only people who are predisposed with sympathies for the Nazi’s will not be able to see the forest for the trees in this film, as it is all right there.
Downfall is as affecting a war movie that has ever been made, while the subject matter and portrayal of which is rightly controversial it can’t stop the film from being a fascinating look at the last wretched gasps of a way of life, and an end to a horrible group of people.
OUT OF FIVE