Saturday, January 15, 2011

Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel)

A teary-eyed Hitler.

Epic mosaic of war-time Germany in the brink of Nazism's fall and can also be an ultimate film portrayal of extremist pride. I was quite surprised at how expansive the film has been in terms of parallel narratives, be it the brief story of a Hitler Youth's father or Traudl Junge's (played by Alexandra Maria Lara) observant but deeply emotional involvement with the life within the claustrophobic bunker. All of these pieces converge and circle around Adolf Hitler himself and his central deterioration from being a brain-washing, all-knowing tyrant/political rhetorician into a man grasping helplessly for desperate pride and twisted ideologies.

The Fuhrer to which the story focused its attention most of the time was brilliantly played by Bruno Ganz. Yes. Bruno Ganz. That sweet philosophically lovelorn angel in "Wings of Desire", now portraying the "worst ethnic cleanser the world has ever known". There has been numerous transmutations (even an alternate reality) of Hitler's cinematic persona, but after seeing "Downfall", with his undying ego and his stubborn final salvo for what he calls 'principle' perfectly portrayed by this film inside out, surface and within, no other cinematic evocation of Hitler and his life would be as definitive as this one.

"Downfall" never intended to entirely humanize Adolf Hitler (though I spotted some tears in his eyes). It merely gave a personification of a seemingly invincible prime ruler of the Aryan race and stripped him off of all the enigma and occultic intrigue. What we have is a Hitler stumbling and shouting his way into his defeat; a headfirst descent into ruins reciprocated by last-minute theatrics disguised as unswayed authority.


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