Monday, July 28, 2008

Faves: Downfall

I can't find the quote anywhere, but remember Kenneth Clark saying in "Civilization" that the wise historian stops 50 years before his own time.  This extraordinary German film about the last days of Adolf Hitler came out 59 years after his death.  The film caused a great deal of controversy in Germany because it humanizes Hitler.  I believe that humanizing these people is necessary in understanding them and what they did.  There was nothing inherently different about Hitler and his cohorts from anyone else then, or now.  And that is the essential lesson.  The events of the War were not inevitable.  Similar crimes could happen again.  On a vastly lesser scale, they have happened again.

Anyway, the film has to be judged on its own merits.  It's an engrossing experience and an excellent piece of movie making.  Hitler entered the bunker below the Reich Chancellery in Berlin in January, 1945.  Except for one or two trips outside the door, he never came out again.  The movie details his progressive collapse, and that of the regime, through the spring of 1945.  Bruno Ganz's incandescent performance as Hitler is the backbone of the film.  It is unearthly how close he comes to what I had imagined the real Hitler.

I had the movie for a long time before watching it.  It seemed very depressing.  With my condition, depressing is not something I need or want more of.  Eventually, I did watch it and was floored.  I've watched it again several times since.  The english commentary by the director is excellent as well.  For anyone interested in history, this is a must-see.