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TAKING SIDES

SYNOPSIS: 
Wilhelm Furtwängler (Stellan Skarsgård), arguably the most distinguished conductor of his generation, is interrogated by Major Steve Arnold (Harvey Keitel) of the American Denazification Committee. Although he is acquitted of all charges, his name remains tainted by his association with the Nazis. After Hitler took over power in 1933, many Jewish artists were forced to leave Germany. Others went voluntarily into exile in protest. Furtwängler chose to stay. While helping to secure safe haven for many Jewish musicians, at the same time he served as one of the Nazi`s foremost cultural assets. The question of the artist`s political responsibility within a totalitarian regime remains open to this day – whether to stay and serve one`s own people or to leave the homeland.


Review by Andrew L. Urban:
As István Szabó says, “the greatest value of film is the close up – here we can put how emotions are born and changed in front of an audience like in no other artform. That is its power.” Taking Sides is a riveting example of the power of film, as Szabó digs into his favourite subject: how do artists deal with dictatorships that are thrust upon them. He has cast the film impeccably, with two leading actors who are not only ‘culturally’ right but viscerally accurate.

The film’s most compelling element is that we are constantly taking sides - and switching sides. There is no black and white clarity or simplistic moralising, and the complexity of human nature and the life and death nuances of life in Nazi Germany (but it could be any authoritarian state) provide the backdrop to a highly personal drama.

Superbly photographed by Szabó favourite, Lajos Koltai, and set in a bleak, war damaged Berlin, the film is at once raw and compassionate. There are terrific support performances from all the cast, including Moritz Bliebtrau as Major Arnold’s young, idealistic offsider, and Birgit Minichmayer as the spirited and complex record keeping secretary. The film ends with archival footage of the real Furtwängler shaking hands with Hitler at the end of a concert; take a close look at how Szabó uses this footage, including a close up of Furtwängler’s hands afterwards.

Taking Sides is an intelligent, complex and powerful film, dealing with one of the most problematic subjects in the human experience.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

ISTVAN SZABO INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban

TAKING SIDES (M)
(UK/Germany)

CAST: Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgård, Moritz Bleibtrau, Birgit Minichmayer, Oleg Tabokov, Ulrich Tukur

PRODUCER: Yves Pasquier

DIRECTOR: István Szabó

SCRIPT: Ronald Harwood (adapted from his stage play, with Szabó)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lajos Koltai

EDITOR: Sylvie Landra

MUSIC: uncredited

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ken Adam

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Beyond Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: October 24, 2002; other states to follow







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