Downfall (2004)

The war is lost… But if you think that I’ll leave Berlin for that, you are sadly mistaken. I’d prefer to put a bullet in my head.

Traudl Junge (wonderfully played by Alexandra Maria Lara), Adolf Hitler’s last secretary, tells the story of the dictators final days in the Berlin bunker at the end of WWII.

If you ever want to see a movie about a man totally losing his shit and slowly slipping into his delusions and insanity…look no further. Downfall is about Hitler’s final days hunkered down in his bunker leading to his suicide and Germany’s surrender. It showed the blind loyalty and devotion that his officers had to him and the case (with the exception of a few “traitors”)…and to continue to follow disorders when the writing was on the wall and the end that lay ahead was clear as day. There were those few who knew they were at the end of the line but were too afraid to stand up to the Fuhrer and that led to the death of thousands of civilians in Berlin (let alone the millions of others across the world).

I will admit that I find it hard to come to grips with the fact that his secretary said she didn’t realize the magnitude and severity of the Nazi’s atrocities and that it wasn’t until the very end that she realized the full scale and couldn’t really forgive herself…hindsight, huh.

Bruno Ganz played the hell out of this Hitler role! You really saw him unraveling…I wonder if this part took a mental toll on him. Eva Braun (Juliane Kohler) came across bat shit crazy as well (or at least in some serious denial about what was really happening). This one was another German-language film I watched with the subtitles to help train my ears. The costuming, make-up and sound editing were great. The film was expertly shot…the set design/production was flawless showing all the destruction leveled on Berlin. The supporting cast of characters were all superb too. Everyone was emotion and belivable and grappling with the certainties and uncertainties of their paths that lay ahead.

I also love seeing familiar faces from English-language (British and American) movies in foreign films (i.e. Thomas Kretschmann who was also great)…cinema is truly a global art that transcends borders and languages. Downfall was brilliantly directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (who also directed The Same Sky) and was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film”. This was a fascinating case study in the decent into madness when your back is against the wall and it’s well worth the watch (and read, if you don’t speak German). Currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.