Friday, February 17, 2006

Artsy Bunker

It's a bit disconcerting to enthusiastically recommend a film whose most sympathetic character is Albert Speer, but Downfall is magnificent. Those final days in Berlin--spent underground as the mighty Thousand-Year Reich collapsed around Hitler and his loyalists--are here recreated as a surreal, dizzying, claustrophobic nightmare of booze, dancing, bombs, and cyanide pellets. Many complained that this film 'humanized' Hitler and the Nazis; I disagree. Instead Downfall emphasizes the brutal sadism and the absurd fantasmagoric fanaticism of these nutjobs. A painfully intimate scene involves the murder of her children by Frau Goebbels--dark, appalling, and moving. These beautiful blond Fascist babies are the anti-Von Trapp singers, and watching them doped and then poisoned and knowing that actually happened...brrr!

There is an odd tension in Downfall created by the lack of empathy for its protaganists. One sees these monstrous people suffering and all our cinematic experience says we should feel sorry for them; of course we can't, and the film continuously reminds us why. I don't think I've ever rooted so enthusiastically for the deaths of an entire cast.

All the leads are excellent. Recommended.

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