Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hitler at His Lowest and Most Miserable

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hitler at His Lowest and Most Miserable

Article excerpt

Byline: DEREK MALCOLM

Downfall

Cert 15, 155 mins

WAS HITLER man or monster? Downfall, the first post-war German film to put the Fuhrer on the screen, suggests he was both.

Kindly and avuncular to the scared but excited women who applied to be his secretary, and a monster who, when told of the danger to Berlin's population as the Russians advanced, had no compunction in saying: "Let them die. They let me down."

Oliver Hirschbiegel's long film, covering the last 10 days of Hitler's life, is based on two main sources. Inside Hitler's Bunker by Joachim Fest provides most of the dramatis personae.

More intimate is a memoir by Traudl Junge, a young secretary. She appeared in a fascinating documentary and died the day after it was presented at the Berlin Festival two years ago.

Bruno Ganz gives a remarkable performance as Hitler. It is a portrait of a broken and virtually useless commander of the Reich, at first unable to comprehend the enormity of the situation and finally railing against the generals, soldiers and civilians who had betrayed him by losing the war.

Not even Sir Alec Guinness and Sir Anthony Hopkins, two of the more distinguished artists who have tried the role, matched the sour malevolence, misery and increasing physical and mental deterioration of the Swiss actor's shrivelled Hitler. This is a stunning piece of acting.

Only two films equal Hirschbiegel's study of what went on in the bunker.

Syberberg's almost Wagnerian Hitler: A Film From Germany and the Russian Sokurov's eccentric Moloch. Downfall, unlike these essays, is realism through and through, relying on the words reported by those in the bunker and on accurate-looking location work within the bleak ruins of the German capital.

Corinna Harfouch plays the wife of Goebbels, calmly poisoning her children so they wouldn't live in a world without the Fuhrer; Juliane Kohler is the uncomprehending Eva Braun, kicking Hitler's dog and complaining that all he can talk about is canines and vegetarian food. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.