Preview by: Jack Foley
A NEW film depicting Adolf Hitler with a human side has recently
been shown in Germany, breaking one of the remaining taboos of
German cinema, by having the former dictator appear in a central
The Downfall (Der Untergang), written and produced by Bernd Eichinger,
portrays Hitler during the final days leading to his suicide,
at the end of the Second World War.
Yet, far from being a monster and malicious dictator, on the
brink of insanity, the film opts to show him as a soft-spoken,
mild-mannered man, with a human side.
Needless to say, it has caused a certain amount of outrage, in
Germany, where audiences in Berlin were among the first to be
given the chance to see it.
In an interview with the BBC, for instance, Dr Rolf Giesen, from
the Film Museum in Berlin, criticised the film for being ‘the
first time that they have tried to discover the human touch in
"It is aimed at the generation who did not know about the
terrors of World War Two and national socialism," he continued.
"This youth will find it a fascinating insight in to the
fatalism of evil.
"We have just seen Mel Gibson's The
Passion of The Christ, now we have the Passion of Adolf Hitler."
Another leading commentator, Isabel
Marschall, an art historian, described watching the film as being
a little like a nightmare from which he couldn’t escape.
While he also predicted that people might be able to use the
film in a way that might not reflect kindly on Germany - which
is still struggling to come to terms with the darker side of its
However, he did add that The Downfall was good in other ways.
The film is based on eyewitness accounts, as well as the book
of the same name by historian, Joachim Fest, and is due to go
on general release in Germany, in September.
It is told from the point of view of Traudl Junge, one of Hitler's
personal secretaries, and finds Hitler confined to his sparsely
furnished, bare-walled bunker, from where he orders non-existent
units into battle and declares the defeated German nation ‘has
shown itself unworthy’ of him.
Swiss actor, Bruno Ganz, portrays Hitler, and is said to achieve
a photographic likeness of the stooped, 56-year-old dictator,
who was plagued by Parkinson's disease.
And defending the project, producer, Bernd Eichinger, who also
produced The Name of the Rose, maintained that a degree of empathy
with Hitler is unavoidable.
"If you want to understand history, you have to understand
the people that make it," he told German ZDF television.
He added: "If you throw the spotlight on the biggest possible
physical and psychological collapse of an entire civilisation,
namely our German nation, then it must be possible for us to tell
this story ourselves. We have to."