Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie of the Week - Downfall

This week’s movie is Downfall (2004).

The drama is about the last days of Hitler’s life in his bunker in Berlin as told by the accounts of others that were there, specifically his personal secretary (twenty-two at the time) Traudl Junge. Directed by German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel (who also did Das Experiment, The Invasion, which was his failure at delivering a film within the Hollywood system, and Five Minutes of Heaven), the film is a brilliant look at the absolute lunacy of those days in the bunker, the Nazi empire crumbling around it. What is so compelling about the film is the range of emotions that it elicits in the viewer. It is about maybe the most hated man in history, and yet there are moments of compassion and humanity amongst those of villainy, hatred and spite. Hirschbiegel sets out to create a full character and not just a caricature, which is the most common approach when dealing with Hitler. The aesthetics of the film are also quite brilliant. The work of composer Stephen Zacharias, cinematographer Rainer Klausmann and production designer Bernd Lepel is all top notch. However along with Hirschbiegel’s direction, it is Bruno Ganz’s performance that elevates this film to being one of the best of the decade. It may even be the best performance of the decade. Alexandra Maria Lara is also very good as Traudl Junge, and the rest of the cast is excellent as well. This is a film that truly engrosses its viewer, as we see Hitler the man and the Fuhrer the leader (each terrifying, but the man is actually relatable on a human level outside the deeds and politics, due to the amazing performance of Ganz, the work of Hirschbiegel and the performances of those around him who believe in him) – a leader who sees his dreams (be them what they are) collapsing around him. It is a must see for fans of character dramas and films about WWII. Check out the trailer.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD and to Rent

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