Downfall/Der Untergang (2004)

Downfall (2004)It’s hard to imagine that the same director Oliver Hirschbiegel gave us Downfall (2004) and Diana (2013). Both towering figures of the twentieth century yet the outcomes are miles apart. I made a conscious decision to avoid the latter, based partly o the poor reviews and the fact that the film was even made about such a controversial figure who in this country is held so dear to the nation.

Turning to the far superior Downfall I can see from the start I am in for something special and moving. When Adolf Hitler’s former secretary Traudl Junge speaking about her regret of being part of the Nazi party. A stark reminder that this is an account of what really happened. The facts have become blurred over the years due to film recounting them for entertainment. Our understanding is impaired by depiction after depiction of WWII. What happens is of course of the two hours is again a mix of fact and fiction. We see a powerful man fall into madness, as his closest allies talk of the end, an end that he denies until it’s upon him.

Following the final days of the war in Berlin as the Russian front was beginning to surround the German capital the events far below ground are the centre of attention. Of course there are conspiracy theories that say Hitler lived into the 1970’s and other nonsense, here is a clear and direct progression from denial to acceptance by a man who changed the course of history. Portrayed by Bruno Ganza role that has become both admired and the material for comical YouTube videos, he provides the definitive performance of Hitler. In his final weeks in Berlin starts to unravel as his plan for conquering the world finally begins to crumble around him. It’s disturbing to watch what he has to say, not just about the enemy and the Jews it’d his own people who he now turns against, the once great master race has let him down so deserves to die. His own army has all be dissipated, surrendering to the allied forces or lost in action. He sees his closest advisors turn against him.

Only they really accept the reality of the situation, doing the best they can to make the best of it to get out alive (not that many do as history and allegiances tell us). Throughout the film we see how them trying to persuade the Fruher to surrender, to talk to Eisenhower, to reach out and save himself from complete humiliation. Sadly it’s already happened. As the audiences waits for the inevitable to take place we are shown other aspects of the capitals downfall. From children taking on the enemy, destroying two Russian tanks with one bazooka. It’s hard to imagine a child being placed in the middle of a war zone on the brink of falling to the enemy. To the women of the men who are more steadfast and loyal than some of the men. Such as Magda Goebbels (Corinna Harfouch) cannot see beyond socialism which has given her strength for all these years.

A powerful film that really looks at the final days of the Nazi regime as they realise victory has long gone. It must have been a hard film to make, both in terms of production and acting, to recreate a time in Germany’s past that is now looked on with shame and reflection, to see how far they have come as a country. A very important film for the country to show how far they have come to retell these events themselves. Owning the events and saying, yes this happened and it will never happen again. A very important film that is hard to really surpass in terms of the war genre of film, just looking at the poster, I can’t think of many others that even come close to this piece of work.

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