Yesterday I finally got round to seeing "The Downfall", a 2004 German film portraying Berlin's fall and Hitler's final days, in April 1945. It is a powerful, disturbing and remarkably well done film that leaves you praying that your children be spared the horrors of war.
The film has one particularly shattering scene that left me devastated: Magda Goebbels breaking a cyanide capsule inside the mouth of each of her six sleeping children (a sleep that she had induced earlier on with a potion). It wounds you deeply to know that it's not fiction. It really did happen and what made it happen sends shivers down your spine.
War is indeed a terrible thing. The most despicable and inhumane atrocities are committed in the name of the ideals of a few power-thirsty strategists or madmen who, through fear or powerful propaganda, brainwash millions of people into committing the most horrific acts without thinking twice or even feeling a twinge of remorse.
I think everyone who's ever seen a French, English or American WW2 film should absolutely see this pioneer and exceptional German film. History for the masses is written by those who win and the defeated have no place in it except as unidimensional "bad guys". This film shows the very human ordeal of Berliners and the people surrounding a complex, lunatic, hallucinating, physically frail and defeated Adolph Hitler. Everyone has a tremendous share of suffering in a war and it shouldn't be forgotten that people are still people in spite of having been on the loosing side.
But I guess that, in the end, what really strikes you the most in any serious film about Hitler is the fact in itself that such a delusional, charismatic madman held so much power and unleashed so much terror in a supposedly civilized 20th century Europe.
You can watch the movie's trailer here.
The riveting subject of Downfall is nothing less than the disintegration of Adolph Hitler in mind, body, and soul. A 2005 Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film, this German historical drama stars Bruno Ganz as Hitler, whose psychic meltdown is depicted in sobering detail, suggesting a fallen, pathetic dictator on the verge on insanity, resorting to suicide (along with Eva Braun and Joseph and Magda Goebbels) as his Nazi empire burns amidst chaos in mid-1945. While staging most of the film in the claustrophobic bunker where Hitler spent his final days, director Oliver Hirschbiegel dares to show the gentler human side of der Fuehrer, as opposed to the pure embodiment of evil so familiar from many other Nazi-era dramas. This balanced portrayal does not inspire sympathy, however: We simply see the complexity of Hitler's character in the greater context of his inevitable downfall, and a more realistic (and therefore more horrifying) biographical portrait of madness on both epic and intimate scales. By ending with a chilling clip from the 2002 documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary, this unforgettable film gains another dimension of sobering authenticity. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com