Review: DER UNTERGANG: Do not miss this brilliant film! (highly recommended)
A young secretary is sitting in front of a typewriter. Her boss is dictating very fast. Then she stops writing, because she cannot follow. The boss smiles, looks at her and says: "Let us try it again."
Nothing special? Actually no, if this boss was not Adolf Hitler.
In the very controversial German film "Der Untergang" (which means ruin), director Oliver Hirschbiegel shows the last days of Hitler and his "Reich", before the Russians come. The Hitler in this film, played by the marvelous Bruno Ganz, is very human. And that is the whole controversy around this film. Isn't Hitler represented too human? My answer: No, because he was a human being. Of course, he was evil and a murderer, but he was not a monster. He was as well a human as we all are. By considering him as a monster, we only exclude him from us and the rest of mankind and we think that a human being would never have been able to do something like that: killing over six million Jews, beginning a war during which more than 50 million people will find the death, etc. In this film, Adolf Hitler cries, laughs, makes jokes and is very ill. But he never, I repeat never becomes sympathetic or pleasant. This makes the film even more powerful.
But not just the last days of Adolf Hitler are shown. The film is told through the eyes of Traudl Junge (1921-2002) (she was Hitler's secretary).
One of the most shocking scenes is the scene where Magda Goebbels kills her five children by poisoning them. After Hitler's suicide, she sees no future for her family. She puts a capsule with poison between the teeth of her sleeping children, and then she presses together their jaws. The crack-sound when the little capsules burst in their mouthes is terrible.
Even though German films have in general a rather bad reputation, this movie is of international quality. It is moving, but never sentimental, and depressing (in a positive way!), especially because you can hear during nearly the whole 155 minutes the Russian artillery destroying Berlin.
The cast is brilliant. Bruno Ganz gives one of the best performances I have seen for awhile (probably a Oscar-nomination for 2005?), but also the other actors (Juliane Köhler, Corinna Harfouch and Ulrich Noethen) are mesmerizing.
Let us not forget the epilogue. By far one of the best I have ever seen. I won't tell you now what it is like, because you have to see it yourself. If you miss this masterpiece, it's your own fault.
P.S.: A US-release is not yet announced, but I think the film will be in American theatres in 2005.