Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DOWNFALL (2004) - Oliver Hirschbiegel

The Hitler movie that launched a thousand screaming memes. I'd never seen it before and only one or two of the YouTube parodies. Turns out, it's also quite good in its unabridged, two and a half hour form. There are even a few moments when Hitler (a brilliant Bruno Ganz) almost seems relaxed.

In case you haven't been on the internet in a decade, Downfall is the story of Der Fuhrer's final hours in the bunker as the Russians are bombing Berlin to smithereens, told from the POV of one of his secretaries. There are almost too many Raving Adolf scenes to count. The man is very, very angry and generally clueless up until the very end as to how badly his battered German forces are FUBAR. There are nearly as many ritual suicides, especially when it becomes apparent that all Nazi hope is lost.

Though Adolf's self-offing is the big one everyone's waiting for, Hirschbiegel makes the interesting narrative choice of placing it not at the end of his film but closer to the middle (there are still about 30 to 40 minutes left when he takes a Walther to his head along with a poison capsule). This being Hitler, there's not much love lost when it happens, even less considering how much the man seems to thoroughly disregard the legacy/survival/safety of his own people. The hard suicides to watch are the scenes with the children, Mrs. Goebbels roofie'ing her six children to sleep then placing poison capsules for them to bite down onto while they snooze. Harder than this, Hitler poisoning his own dog, Blondi (a German Shepard, of course).

It's one thing to dose a gaggle of Aryan moppets who would probably grow up to be horrible people. But the dog, too?

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