Downfall chronicles the last 10 days of the Third Reich, playing almost entirely in Hitler’s bunkers under Berlin, as the Russians closed in on the city from all sides. Hitler is shown as the lunatic he was. His followers and generals were beside him, sycophants some, maniacs others, generally rolling their eyes as Hitler gave orders, pretending he was still in control.
In a number of reviews and ruminations in this blog I have questioned how it was possible that one insane individual, together with a small team of pandering murderers, could have hijacked an entire nation for twelve years and completely run it into the ground. Watching Downfall brought it home to me how it was possible. Once ultimate power is given to a single individual, it cannot easily be taken away again. Hitlers words alone executed people, by the millions on the battlefields and in the concentration camps, and one at a time in the bunker, when he felt betrayed.
Hitler, played superbly by Bruno Ganz, is seen ranting out of control in front of his generals. While clearly nobody believed in him or his decisions any longer, they still carried out his orders, sometimes to their own demise.
German with English subtitles, this is a somewhat difficult movie to watch for English speakers, since the reading of the subtitles takes enough attention away from the acting to reduce the overall experience. This is definitely a movie to watch in the German language – so I had an advantage. Downfall was hailed as one of the best foreign movies of 2004. It deserved it.