Friday, January 7, 2011
Movies have engrained an idea in the minds of the audience that nazis are ultimate villains. This is historically true, but most movies don't seem to care about that. Nazis are for the most part a plot device, their nefarious activity served to allow the hero to shine instead of making an historical statement. So anyone who wishes to see a version of nazism that hasn't received the Hollywood treatment should really check out Downfall, a film that chronicles the final days of Hitler's regime. The film attempts to convey two things, one, to offer a complete perspective on Hitler, and two, to show the state of Germany as the Russians began their invasion. Hitler, played, in a terrific performance, by Bruno Ganz (easily ranks among the finest ever for portrayals of historical figures) is shown to be every bit as ruthless as the textbooks claim him to be. But we also see another side of him that's not often deliberated over, and that's just how painfully sad and desperate he was. Now, obviously we're only getting a sliver of his life in the film, but from what we see he is torn apart by failure. He finds comfort that he he has "cleansed Germany of the Jews," but he is gravely disappointed that his aspirations were never fulfilled. He is full of hatred, but also despair. He has a kind side, and is looked upon with great honor by his fellow Germans. Why did he have such a faithful following? I think it has something to do with the extent of his evilness. It was so great that people could only be in awe of him, caught in sort of a trance as they watched a man do so much and promise even more. Downfall lives up to its title. It's a movie full of despair, dim and grey in the Wolf's lair, and under complete destruction in the streets of Berlin. There are plenty of suicides besides Hitler's, as well as a series of murders so unsettling because we know this must have actually happened. And the severity of the entire Hitler era has really dawned on me the last few months. Everyone knows it was terrible, yet I think most don't fully consider it for what it actually was. Judgement at Nuremberg, Orson Welles' The Stranger, and now this have served as a reminder of just how disturbing and unhuman that era was.