Berlin, April 1945. As fighting rages in the streets, Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz) retreats to his bunker with his closest confidantes. Among them is 25 year-old Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara), Hitler's private secretary since 1942. Despite blinding evidence that Berlin can no longer be held, Hitler refuses to leave the city and berates those around him for having failed in their duties. While the full force of the Allied advance shatters the last remnants of resistance, the Fuehrer lays down plans for his final exit.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
What is absolutely mesmerising about Downfall is the treatment of its subject matter, as if we were given a glimpse into Hitler's last days - and with it his Nazi empire - for the first time. After almost 60 years and countless docos and dramas about Hitler and the war, Oliver Hirschbiegel's film is the most convincing, the most insightful and the most shattering.
I know I rabbit on about context all the time, so forgive me for again pointing to the value of context, which Hirschbiegel provides in abundance. There is the war context, the political context, the human context. When we see the two kinds of devotees to Hitler's National Socialist Germany, and world, revealed so eloquently as here, we gain a new shaft of understanding light into the Germany that allowed this crazed house painter to take over the Chancellery. We glimpse the varied reasons why innocents like his secretary Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) were swept away with the moment, and also why dedicated followers like the Goebbels - who carefully killed their own children to spare them the horrors of living in a world without National Socialism - helped drive the Third Reich into its furious, hate driven frenzy.
The film is technically excellent, with a cohesive and clear structure, superb editing and a fitting score. Performances are riveting; Bruno Ganz captures the shrieking fanatic and the introverted madman of Hitler, as well as the occasionally sane, dog loving vegetarian next door.
In the clear headed, meticulous process of documenting the final days and hours of Adolf Hitler, Downfall also distresses us with taking us into the brutality of the battle for Berlin. And the film has to distress us, it has to pick off the scab, it has to pose its questions about human nature and the nature of politics otherwise it would be an empty and forgettable gesture. And it's not that; it's an unforgettable film about people caught up in a war that killed 50 million and changed the world. You may not enjoy it, but you must see it.
On DVD, the bonus material includes a one-hour making of documentary, interviews, biographies, a virtual tour of The Bunker, a featurette about shooting in Russia and a behind the scenes featurette with director commentary.
Published March 2, 2006
Email this article
DOWNFALL: DVD (MA)
CAST: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Corinna Harfouch, Ulrich Matthes, Juliane Köhler, Heino Ferch, Christian Berkel, Matthias Habich, Thomas Kretschmann, Michael Mendl
PRODUCER: Bernd Eichinger
DIRECTOR: Oliver Hirschbiegel
SCRIPT: Bernd Eichinger (Based on the books Inside Hitlers Bunker by Joachim Fest and Uti the Final Hour by Tradul Junge and Melissa Mueller)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rainer Klausmann
EDITOR: Hans Funck
MUSIC: Stephan Zacharias
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bernd Lepel
RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 21, 2005
SPECIAL FEATURES: 2 disk limited edition - one making making of documentary; interviews; biographies; virtual tour: The Bunker; Shooting in Russia Featurette; behind the scenes featurette with directory commentary
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
DVD RELEASE: March 2, 2006