I teach a college course on WWII, in graduate school studied under several experts on the subject and have interviewed numerous survivors on both sides. This film comes out on top, perhaps the finest ever made on the subject of the war (though the Belorussian "Come and See" & "Schindler's List" are darn close as well).
I had the remarkable experience of watching this film last night with two veterans, one a GI who fought from Omaha to Czechoslovakia. . .and a German infantry officer, a veteran of four years on the Eastern Front. The German, who met Hitler several times, within minutes was exclaiming over the historical accuracy, right down to "Hitler's" lower class Munich accent. . .something an American audience would never pick up on. My German friend, who at the end of the war was in East Prussia, in the debacle of attempting to evacuate over a million civilians ahead of the Russians, was profoundly shaken by the film. . .saying the horror, the hospital scenes, the utter chaos, the lynchings, the sight of 12 year old children fighting. . .all of it was real. And an interesting observation by him. . .he had no idea Berlin, at the end, had been as bad as what he witnessed along the Baltic coast and is still haunted by. It truly was "Gotterdammerung" for an entire nation and this film brings it frightfully close to you. If you are a parent of small children, the terrifying ending for the Goebbel's children is an absolutely searing nightmare.
I think the most important point of the film was the portrayal of Hitler. . .not as the stereotyped raving madman, usually overplayed like a bad performance of King Richard, but far more subtle. I've talked with many who knew Hitler, including a childhood playmate of Helga, Goebbel's oldest child, and all will tell you that Hitler could be absolutely charming, focused on you, even courtly when with women. The terror is, that even as the actor shows us that "human" side, in his soft voice he is dictating orders, observations, and comments of absolute evil. The true form of evil rarely looks evil on the surface, it seduces us with a fair face as it leads, sometimes an entire nation, into damnation. THis film captured that evil.
My German friend's comment at the end of the movie. . ."I still can not believe we fought for that monster for six years."
A history professor at Montreat College
Biography / Drama / History / War
Biography / Drama / History / War
In April of 1945, Germany stands at the brink of defeat with the Soviet Armies closing in from the west and south. In Berlin, capital of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler proclaims that Germany will still achieve victory and orders his Generals and advisers to fight to the last man. "Downfall" explores these final days of the Reich, where senior German leaders (such as Himmler and Goring) began defecting from their beloved Fuhrer, in an effort to save their own lives, while still others (Joseph Goebbels) pledge to die with Hitler. Hitler, himself, degenerates into a paranoid shell of a man, full of optimism one moment and suicidal depression the next. When the end finally does comes, and Hitler lies dead by his own hand, what is left of his military must find a way to end the killing that is the Battle of Berlin, and lay down their arms in surrender.
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July 31, 2018 at 10:02 AM