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Last updated on June 15th, 2017 at 01:14 pm
I wonder if any of you have seen the German movie currently playing called Downfall? It deals with the weeks leading up to Hitler’s suicide and is largely set inside his bunker. The movie is based on books by two people who were there, including one by his (Hitler’s) 22-year old secretary, Trudl Junge. In fact, the movie is told from her point of view.
It has been criticised by many people, though it has been a hit in Germany itself. One of the most common complaints is that it humanises the Nazi’s, particularly Hitler’s inner core of supporters and some of the lesser figures (like the secretaries) that surround him. One such critic was German director Wim Wenders:
In a diatribe published in the weekly paper Die Zeit, German filmmaker Wim Wenders said he had found the film to be inexcusably neutral toward National Socialism and Hitler. “The lack of narrative position alone,” he wrote, takes “the audience into a black hole in which they are led, almost unnoticeably, toward looking at this time through the eyes of the perpetrators, and generates a kind of benevolent understanding of them.”
I think this is just plain wrong. Certainly the movie does, in a sense, humanise those it depicts, but the idea that you come away with a “benevolent” understanding of them is nonsense. In fact, it is the very humanisation of the characters–their unexceptionableness–that makes their descent into evil, their supporting role, all the more horrifying.
For me–and I suspect, most parents–the most disgusting moment involves the Goebbels family and I am at one with Jim Henley on this:
Josef and Magda Goebbels are especially monstrous: Magda’s way of reconciling familial love and fuhrerprinzip made me want to reach through the screen and shoot the bitch myself. Absolutely skin-crawling.
The other chilling moment, though this time in a political sense as well, also belongs to Josef Goebbels. At one point someone asks him (and I’m doing this from memory not from a transcript) something about showing concern for the German people now that the war is lost and given the fact that they being slaughtered. Goebbels is completely dismissive, saying something to the effect of, “Well, they gave us a mandate, and now their little throats are being cut.” Boo hoo.
It was a brutal reminder, the whole film was in fact, of the risks for people of any political persuasion in accepting uncritically the actions of any political party or leader they happen to favour. Not only do you need freedom of speech legally enshrined so that critics can be heard, you need, on a personal level, a willingness to confront your own side of politics when they fuck up. That’s as true for those who dress left politically as it is for those who dress right, but it is most important when “your” side is in power.
Anyway, be interested if anyone else has seen the movie and what they thought of it.